By Meredith Sharpe
Alan Adler is a hardworking man. The lines in his face suggest years of early mornings and hours of bookkeeping. At 9 A.M., he is dressed in jeans, workman’s boots and a denim shirt, ready for a full day. He jokes with employees, speaks with pride of the factory where he has worked since his youth, and hopes his children will enter into professions that they are successful at, whatever they may be. This typical American worker is also worth $25,000,000.
Adler is the great-grandson of Aron Streit, an Austrian immigrant who founded Streit’s, the now-legendary Lower East Side matzo factory. Due to skyrocketing real estate prices and the increasing trendiness of the neighborhood, the land the factory stands on was estimated at $25,000,000 in 2007. Adler, whose appearance does not betray years of education in both business and law, still refuses to sell. He openly acknowledges his factory’s inefficiencies, from the complicated floor-to-floor web of production inside to even the truck outside, filled with flour for an early morning batch of matzo. Much of the flour is spilled on the ground in the process. Streit’s is one of the few factories that still uses convection ovens, outdated machines which produce a 700 to 800 degree baking temperature and which are responsible for the irreplaceable taste of the company’s matzo. Energy costs are in the “tens of thousands” every month, while workers are required to report to their posts at 6 A.M. every morning in order to maintain production.