Arts & Culture

Memo from Chicago: Best’s No More

Out here in Chicago we’re marking the passing of a venerable local institution: Best’s Kosher is no more. Its parent company, Sara Lee, has closed up its South Side meat-processing facility and will sell off the company, putting 185 employees … Read More

By / February 4, 2009

Out here in Chicago we’re marking the passing of a venerable local institution: Best’s Kosher is no more. Its parent company, Sara Lee, has closed up its South Side meat-processing facility and will sell off the company, putting 185 employees out of work.

There’s some real history here. Best’s opened for business in Chicago in 1925, founded by Isaac Oscherwitz (whose father nearly went into business with Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz a generation earlier).

Oscherwitz’s granddaughter Susan Berger recently wrote a wonderful and poignant eulogy in the Tribune, in which she mourns the end of an era:

This is a loss not only for my family, but for the millions of Jews who keep kosher and the many millions who don’t but learned to love my family’s hot dogs…

Oh, the memories. There was my summer on the switchboard. I almost got fired for answering the phone, "Best’s Kosher, what’s your beef?"  One of my favorite stories is when there had been a lot of stealing in the factory, detectives were hired and immediately caught the culprit. It was my Grandfather Phil, who apparently left each night with bags of meat.

The employees at the factory stayed for years. It was common before a Jewish holiday to hear African-American, Hispanic, Polish or Asian workers greet each other and say, "Hey man, tomorrow’s Tu Bishvat!"

Speaking personally, I can only say it just won’t be the same taking in a game at Wrigley without my ritual pilgrimage to the Best’s stand. Zichrono Livracha...