May 2021 Ruminations & Ronnifications

April showers bring May flowers. And more vaccinations. And Mother’s Day.

After all these years of working, interacting with our customers and employees, I have learned one important lesson. I have never stopped learning; I will continue learning until the day I pass the Ben’s torch to those younger with much more vigor.

I am certain they will do as good a job as I believe I have done over the years, maybe better. They are not tied to practices of the past. And they certainly know much more about this technological world than I could ever know, or truthfully, that I want to know!

I now have workers that make nicer platters, slice meat faster and know social cues and lingo better than me.

And my only advice to these future “bosses” at Ben’s is what I have been saying for years… and that is, bad bosses aren’t born, they are sometimes made… resulting from their experiences. Stay true to yourself and who you are and don’t let circumstances change you.

I also firmly believe that almost all employees come to work to do a good job and how we interact with the employees will determine their attitude and whether they do a good job or not. That is why I like to surround myself with those not afraid to confront their present boss — yours truly — and let me know when I step out of bounds.

I still wish I had the patience of a saint and the wisdom of Solomon… but I am still learning.

To all the mothers out there, come to Ben’s and enjoy our dinner specials and have a wonderful Mother’s Day.

See ya the Deli.

Simply,
Ronnie

April 2021 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Who would have thought that this pandemic would take more than 500,000 American lives?

Who would have thought that we would need to quarantine and isolate, when those were words used to describe only those having smallpox or serving time in prison for some misdeed?

Who would have thought that we had to think twice about going to our favorite restaurant for a relaxing meal?

It has been a year now. I am finally seeing my customers, customers that I have not seen in over a year.

And nothing has warmed my heart more than to see them healthy and smiling, many of whom are eager to share how they have been vaccinated and chose Ben’s as their first dine-out experience in over a year!

Thank you for doing your part to keep us standing.

We are stronger and more appreciative than ever.

Hoping for a much better year as we leave the darkest of times.

See ya the Deli.

Simply,
Ronnie

March 2021 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Time Marches on. As I was contemplating what to write about this month, my daughter inspired me to write about 10 things people might not know about me. She shared it on her Instagram. I thought I’d share it with you.

1) I was a VISTA (Volunteers IService To America) in Richmond, Indiana (now part of Americorps) prior to moving back to New York in 1970.

2) I marched in support of a proposed housing project in Forest Hills, Queens that was negotiated by a then thirty-eight year old up and coming attorney, Mario Cuomo, later Governor of the Empire State where his son is also now Governor and whose other son is a commentator on CNN.

3) I volunteered to work for the New York City Housing Authority during my last year in college and smoothed over relations between the Hispanic and Jewish families living in the Lower East Side Housing projects.

4) In 1975, I met my wife when I placed an advertisement in the local newspaper’s classified section (Newsday) for a server and hired Cindy. On our first anniversary with little money but a desire to surprise my wife I called the same newspaper — Newsday — and convinced them to run with a human interest story on our meeting. They chose to use it for marketing their Classified section. They even used my headline: “She found her job and her husband at Ben’s” in a full page ad that ran multiple times for a year.

5) I was a Treasurer and Board of Director member with the New York Delicatessen Dealers Association (now defunct).

6) I was a Secretary and Board of Director member of the Interfaith Nutrition Network (the INN) for close to twenty years before resigning.

7) We had the Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Ben’s Manhattan on West 38th Street, just off 7th Avenue in 1996.

8) We had former First Lady, Hilary Clinton, cut the ribbon on the 2000 reconstruction of Ben’s in Wheatley Plaza in Greenvale, New York.

9) My two children, Jaime and Joshua, appeared in an advertisement (this one I had to pay for) exclaiming their Pop had the best kosher deli in the world.

10) I am currently preparing an ad for my beloved grandchildren, Ella and Leo, who will also exclaim their grandpa has the best kosher delis in the world.

Time indeed Marches on

Bonus:

11) Pastrami is my true love but for the month of March I eat Corned Beef.  Please come in and check out our Corned Beef and Cabbage and other Corned Beef specials, now going on  through St. Patty’s Day, March 17th.

See ya the Deli.

Simply,
Ronnie

February 2021 Ruminations & Ronnifications

As we embark on a new year we have seen rioting at the Capitol, celebrated Martin Luther King Day and inaugurated a new president…

During this month of February, let’s remember George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Regardless of what your political beliefs are, we can all agree that hate, bigotry, and anti-Semitism do not represent our true American values. Let us each help to keep peace and create unity among us.

2020 has been a hard year for us all, but 2021 does bring immense promise.  With the vaccine distribution in progress and the new UV lights and Hepa Air filters added to our restaurants, we can ensure our employees and customers are kept as safe as possible.

Let’s hope we can all eat our pastrami, and corned beef in a more calm, healthy and peaceful surrounding especially while enjoying the upcoming Super Bowl. Please check out our Super Bowl specials, small group Sport Package and our delicious new wing flavors.

And I would be remiss, if I didn’t thank my loyal customers for their continued patronage and the dedicated employees who serve them.

See you at the deli,
Ronnie

January 2021 Ruminations & Ronnifications

As I contemplate the New Year of 2021, I bid adieu to the tumultuous 2020, whose year-end could not come soon enough.

Although I was born after World War II, I never experienced so much angst around the world as I have witnessed this year. And never in my 48 years in business have I had to implement change on a continuum in order to survive.

Very few businesses have gone unscathed with most suffering terrible losses and dislocation; restaurants finding themselves at the helm, one of the hardest sectors hit in this new world order.

So here I sit contemplating the future of Ben’s… and what I hope is a new, sustainable, and easier year. I am grateful for my employees and loyal customers whom have entrusted me and enabled me to reach this day. We have been, and continue to be, in this together.

As such, Ben’s has spared no expense in an effort to provide the safest possible environment for those who shop and work in our stores. We most recently upgraded and installed the MERV-13 air filters and UV-C air purification lamps to kill pathogens/micro-organisms in the air by exposure to UV radiation. Although these are non-binding government agency recommendations and are not intended to make a definitive statement concerning the transmittal of the virus, we are trying to take a proactive approach and do all that we can to ensure the safest possible environment.

We look forward to serving you in the New Year, at our takeout counter, or with a delivery to your door step, meeting you at the curb, or serving you in our open dining rooms. Whatever your pleasure, we appreciate your business, loyalty and trust, now more than ever.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and safe New Year!

See ya at the deli,

Simply,
Ronnie

December 2020 Ruminations & Ronnifications

The year was 1988. The object of my affections: a beeper. For those who don’t remember, that’s how improved communications first started… the beeper, then a plain cell phone, then the fancy flip phones… and in 2017, I surrendered to those nudging me to upgrade. So a smart phone I purchased. And three years later I often wonder how for most of my years on this planet I got along without this piece of equipment.

We all laugh how my generation was tethered to a landline, a phone without mobility. No different now how we all laugh (or cry) how this generation is tethered to their cell phone or mobile device. See, though time marches on, the same issues continue to plague all generations. So as much as we think that things are different, they are the same…

Just like Ben’s.

So many things have changed during the past forty-eight years, and exponentially these past 10 months, but the foundation and mission remains constant. Make happy customers. We have and will continue to adjust to meet your needs and help navigate through our new normal. No matter what we face, we will face together always providing wholesome and delicious food in a safe and secure environment.

Thank you for your patience, support, and commitment. I am indebted, as you have helped to keep Ben’s, which I have nurtured all these years, alive. Please remember us for Chanukah and any holiday parties you may plan. We have adjusted our packages and platters to accommodate smaller groups.

Stay healthy and safe.

Simply,
Ronnie

November 2020 Ruminations & Ronnifications

I am sitting in my home office listening to Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, the Weavers and realizing that many of our patrons do not know or remember these traveling troubadours of years gone by.

I needed a diversion.  I have been spending so much time working in my home office, I asked my wife to do her Amazon Prime thing and see if she could order a phonograph player (otherwise known as a Victrola).

Sure enough it arrived within a few days and I had to go to an old cabinet where my old (now referred to as vintage) records were stored. Retrieving my old-time favorites now playing on my Victrola, I recall the days of marching for peace, civil rights, and progressive causes.

In the same way I am nostalgic about these times in my life,  poets and singers, I also think about my life’s work and Kosher Delis, and how things  have  changed. I sadly recall the time when there were three kosher delis on the same block in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Now we are lucky if there are three kosher delis in each of those boroughs.

I am determined for others in the Ben’s organization to continue this journey, and as always, I will do everything in my power, to keep the tradition alive. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our management team and employees, and of course, all our loyal  patrons for helping in this endeavor. I would also like to thank my wife for bringing  music to my ears, which has been so uplifting  and joyful in these crazy and uncertain times.

Wishing everyone a very happy, bountiful and healthy Thanksgiving, at Ben’s or in your home.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay well.

See ya at the deli.

Simply,
Ronnie

October 2020 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Let me recount the ways I have brought customers along for the ride and made them feel very much a part of Ben’s and the Ben’s Family. By giving tours in the store I was working and by corresponding with those who have written commentaries on the food and service, I was able to make people feel invested in Ben’s. And if there was a negative critique, I used empathy and sympathy when listening to the patron as well as using a bit of humor and generosity in my response.

An example:
I had a man say that Ben’s would never last, and all his neighbors said Ben’s was no good (I suspect pricing was too high.) Upon hearing that I sprang into action. Mr. Marx: I would love to give you a tour of the belly of the beast (the store and its bowels) and you can also watch the food being prepared since we make 95% of our menu in house. A week later he told me about telling his neighbors that they could eat off the floors, and he couldn’t believe how much food was made from scratch. I converted almost a whole housing development of naysayers.

People don’t forget.

Another example:
Mr. Orenstein calls me up and says he won’t get back to Baldwin from work in time to buy one dozen bagels he needed for the morning. I said no worry, I’ll go next door to the Bagel Emporium, and have it waiting for your pickup (we closed at 9:00 PM). He came, was given a receipt, and he gladly paid our cashier.

People don’t forget.

Another example:
A regular customer (it really didn’t matter if she was a regular customer or not) calls me and says she is home sick with her kids and they are sick, too. Could Ben’s deliver? Of course, Mrs. Pollack. “l’ll get to your home within 30 minutes.”

People don’t forget.

And lastly, another example:
A synagogue calls me ten minutes before closing time and desperately pleads with me to cater their event … for 300 people. I called all the workers back into the restaurant and we were able to feed 300 people and get there 80 minutes later. I never asked the reason why the short notice, but I do know that not many businesses could turn on a dime and perform as we did that night.

People don’t forget.

Do you know how I know people don’t forget? When I asked my customers to support Ben’s and help get us through these challenging times … they came.

Thank you to all my friends and loyal customers for your support. We have been there for each other through good times and bad. We are stronger together and Ben’s appreciates you now more than ever.

See ya at the deli.

Simply,
Ronnie

September 2020 Ruminations & Ronnifications

I am imagining writing this blog in 1972 (an essay or missive back then) when this journey of mine first began.

Richard Nixon was the President with the promise of ending the Vietnam War. Chaos reigned in his administration which ultimately ended in his resignation.

I was struggling to pay the rent at that time; in fact, I once used the coin bank of the store to pay the landlord the monthly rent in rolls of quarters and dimes. That landlord saw something in me when I asked to postpone a scheduled increase in the rent, and he acquiesced until such time as I could afford to pay. Four or five months later, I called the landlord and advised him that I could pay the rent with the promise I wouldn’t pay the rent in rolls of quarters and dimes. He was quite surprised that I volunteered to pay the increase without any prodding. I guess his faith and trust in me paid off.

Fast forward to 2020. Donald Trump is the President who promises to end endless wars. Chaos reigned in his administration with key members of his cabinet and high-level advisors coming and going. Unfortunately, he was saddled with a war of another kind –– the Covid-19 virus.

Now, here we are, 48 years later struggling to pay the rent, we are duplicating what we asked for back then; this time not only a postponement of rent increases, but a reduction in the rent as well –– coming on the heels of a precipitous drop in sales revenues. And although in both cases it was exhausting and an uphill battle, I was 48 years younger back then and had a lot more fight in me. How this will end no one knows for sure but in less than 63 days we will learn who will be presiding over this country.

As I urge you to support your favorite local restaurant and delicatessen, I also urge you to vote and be counted.

See ya at the deli.

Simply,
Ronnie

August 2020 Ruminations & Ronnifications

I’d like to take a survey of my customers as they enter the restaurant. Here are the questions:

Since the shortage of toilet paper, and a lack of brand choices, is your tuchas (rear end) more sore, less sore, or about the same?

What did you do when your natural roots began showing gray? Let it grow out au natural, buy the dye and do it yourself (and pray that someone is home to help), or go to the colorist in the still of the night?

Did you re-acquaint yourself with those metal nail clippers that cost about a dollar? Or use a scissor? Or let them grow out like Vicki in Carle Place?

Did you try to play hair stylist and focus on the terrible job, sides being uneven? Or how much money was saved?

Are you wearing clothing that you hadn’t worn in five years? ten years? fifteen years? Or do you just wear the same clothes every day because no one is seeing you anyway?

Did you gain as much weight as I did? Five pounds? Ten pounds? Or fifteen pounds? Let’s see if we make a match.

Did it just seem that we have more garbage now than we had pre-pandemic? Or is it now filled with empty cardboard boxes?

Have you started to measure your life in how long you can make the toothpaste last? Or the mouthwash? Or the Clorox wipes?

Did you realize that almost all your needs can be met by Amazon? A delivery company — vertically integrated — and conglomerate reaching into all businesses, facets of life and your personal business?

Lastly, and less irreverent, what can we do to better serve you? What will it take for you to come and eat in our indoor or outdoor restaurants and feel safe doing so? What can we do to enhance your take out experience? We are here… and have been here working hard to safely serve you and help get through these challenging times.

Stay well and safe.

See ya at the deli,
Simply Ronnie