At the beginning of January, Streit’s Matzo announced that they would be closing up shop on the Lower East Side of New York City and moving to New Jersey. The company has been operating out of the same tenement building on Rivington Street since 1925—it’s truly one of the last remaining bastions from the neighborhood’s Jewish, Yiddish-speaking heyday.
Filmmaker Michael Levine, who is making a documentary about Streit’s, opined the closure in Bowery Boogie:
I personally know that this was an agonizing decision for the Streit family, who despite their many challenges, were determined to keep the factory and its workers employed onsite, even as the phone rang daily with offers from developers clamoring to purchase the valuable real estate. I watched as they turned down offer after offer, until the challenges of maintaining a manufacturing business in a drastically changing Lower East Side, as well as the pressures of increased foreign competition, left the company no alternative but to accept.
The loss is, of course, especially painful for the Streit’s workers, many of whom have devoted 30 or more years of their lives to working here, and for whom, like the millions before them who came to the Lower East Side, found opportunity for themselves and their families in that work.
Today, The Guardian posted a poignant video about the factory, featuring interviews with executive vice-president Aron Yagoda (great-grandson of founder Aron Streit), and long-time employee Anthony Zapata. There’s some tension—Yagoda says the business can not continue to operate in its current location; Zapata thinks the move is a “mistake”—but mostly, the feeling is one of sadness and inevitability.
(Image: Workers at Streit’s Matzo factory on New York City’s Lower East Side on May 9, 2012. Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/GettyImages)