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This Upper West Side appetizing shop stands apart by standing still



(New York Jewish Week) — Paul Klausner, a native Upper West Sider, has clear memories of shopping with his mother as a young boy at Murray’s Sturgeon Shop, a store on Broadway and 89th Street known for smoked fish. In Klausner’s family, when it came to buying lox and all the fixings, Murray’s was the place.

Now, some 60 years later, Klausner is still a devoted fan. Although he no longer lives in Manhattan, his beloved Murray’s remains very much the same as the Murray’s of his childhood — in fact, little has changed there since it first opened in 1946. As for Klausner, he and his wife, April Stewart Klausner, keep their freezer in Litchfield County, Connecticut, stocked with Murray’s sliced center-cut nova, which they pick up whenever they are in the city.

In the changing retail world now dominated by chain stores and online shopping, Murray’s is a unicorn. Even among other renowned, longstanding New York appetizing stores like Barney Greengrass, Zabar’s and Russ & Daughters, Murray’s stands apart by standing still. Except for one short move in the 1940s — half a block uptown to its present location — it has always occupied the same tiny piece of real estate. Throughout its 77 years of existence, Murray’s has never expanded its brick and mortar store, nor have its owners opened an adjacent restaurant or cafe. It is a small, narrow slip of a shop, more similar in size to a subway car than a food emporium.

“We are one of the oldest continually running stores on Broadway,” said 65-year-old Ira Goller, the third owner of the shop. “There is nothing else like this anywhere.”

Numerous aspects make Murray’s stand out — the lack of in-store seating, for one, as well as the care in which every customer’s order is hand-filled. Varieties of smoked fish are sliced with surgeon-like precision — so finely that each piece is practically transparent — and, perhaps most notably, said fish is wrapped, origami-like, in heavy white waxed paper, never plastic.  Wax paper “absorbs any oils and grease,” said Goller. “If you put the appetizing in a little plastic bag, it is not fresh in a day or two.”

At Murray’s, the smoked fish is still sliced by hand and wrapped in wax paper. (Talia Siegel)

Stewart Klausner describes the shop as “stepping into a time machine where there’s a real connection between merchant and customer.” The countermen, who greet each customer warmly, have all been at Murray’s for at least 10 years. Ecuador-born, Yiddish-speaking Oscar Leon, whom Goller considers his right-hand man, is now in his 45th year. “It’s a family here,” Leon told the New York Jewish Week.

Even the decor is nearly the same as it always was: stainless-steel refrigerators and counters, mirrored side wall, tilework from the 1940s. Of course, over the years, there’s been some nods to modernity: A clock that hangs on the back wall was installed in the 1960s, and somewhere along the way, air conditioning was installed. These days, Murray’s has an online presence — and the store takes many phone orders, especially since the pandemic — but about half of its business is from people who walk in, Goller said.

One regular customer is 54-year old baker Jen Daniels. “Despite the fact that it is actually kind of old, it is immaculate,” Daniels told the New York Jewish Week. “You could eat off the floor there, it is so clean.”

Goller, who previously worked as a Wall Street commodities analyst, bought the store in 1990 from Artie Cutler, founder and owner of several popular Upper West Side eateries, including Artie’s Deli, Ollie’s Noodle Shop and Carmine’s Italian Restaurant. Cutler took over Murray’s in 1974 from the original owners and founders, brothers Sam and Murray Bernstein.

In passing the torch, Cutler stipulated that Goller would find a partner with experience in the food business. There was also an understanding that nothing would be changed in the first year.

After that 12-month learning period, Goller untethered himself from his partner and got to work making a few — just a few! — changes, with an eye on the bottom line. “I had notes to pay, mortgages to pay, mouths to feed,” Goller recalled. No longer would the store be closed on Mondays, as were so many of the stores on Broadway in the 1980s, when Monday was considered the slowest day of the week. Going forward, Murray’s would be open 363 days a year — the store closes only on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur.

Although previous owners shut the store during the eight days of Passover, Goller decided to keep it open, and even to sell bagels over the holiday, during which the consumption of bread is forbidden. Goller said he knew he made the right decision when a longstanding customer came in during Passover, wagged his finger at him for selling bagels — and then purchased a dozen.

All of the fish is smoked according to Goller’s specifications in a local smokehouse; the soups and salads are made in house. The food emerges from the tiny kitchen at the rear of the long, narrow shop. It’s not much to speak of: There’s a walk-in refrigerator — for storing pickles; matjes, schmaltz and pickled herring, coleslaw and smoked fish — and a 36-inch electric Garland oven with four burners, used for making soups made from recipes passed on to Goller by his mother-in-law. The crumb cake, baked apples and dairy noodle pudding are baked in that single oven. You won’t even find a dishwasher —  everything is hand washed.

While waiting for their orders, customers might overhear the sound of music — what’s perceived as a steady beat is actually the sound of onions being hand-chopped. What you won’t hear is the sound of a food processor: When making whitefish salad, the cooks use tweezers to pluck out the bones from the smoked fish, then crush it by (gloved) hands so that chunks of fish remain in the finished product.

All the salads at Murray’s are made in-house. (Talia Siegel)

Perhaps the biggest change Goller made was in 1995, when he decided to add sliced deli meats to Murray’s menu. “You would have thought I shot the pope,” he joked. “It was the first thing I did that caused an uproar.” The kerfuffle eventually died down, and now, alongside creamed herring, lox and Waldorf salad, items like sliced roast beef and turkey breast are available. All of the meat is kosher and sliced on a dedicated meat slicer so that, in deference to the laws of kosher food, there is no mixing of meat and dairy. (There is no ritual oversight in the store other than Goller, who takes the kashrut of the place seriously.)

But you don’t have to keep kosher — or even be Jewish — to love Murray’s. ”When I first came here, 95% of the customers were Jewish,” Goller told the New York Jewish Week. “Now it’s probably 70%.”

He credits Russ & Daughters, in part, for this expansion of Ashkenazi appetizing foods into the general, and younger, population. “Russ & Daughters has introduced people to bagels, lox and cream cheese,” he said. “Exposure of this type is good for everybody.”

The post This Upper West Side appetizing shop stands apart by standing still appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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