By Clara Yang
“Everybody here was my friend,” said Salvatore Bartolomeo, the owner of Rosario’s Pizza, “Not just hello and goodbye, but a friend.” Bartolomeo is the oldest person amongst the very first businesses in Lower East Side of Manhattan, including Katz’s Delicatessen, Economy Candy, Russ and Daughters, and Rosario’s Pizza. He joined the pizza business when he was 16 years old, when his father and uncle opened the restaurant.
“I knew everybody,” said Bartolomeo, now 66 years old. As Rosario’s Pizza is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Bartolomeo reminisces the days when he first came to the neighborhood and joined the community. “We blended very well,” said Bartolomeo. He once knew every single person of the place, but as the neighborhood begin to change into a faster-pacing community, he admits he is now seeing new faces everywhere on the streets. People are constantly moving in and out of the neighborhood, so Bartolomeo tries to meet new people by building relationships with his pizza lovers. “My customers are friends,” said Bartolomeo, “I invite them to dinners.”
Streit’s Matzos is welcoming the neighborhood into its factory for fun, unique Sundays as well. Streit’s invites everyone to join its concert, held at its storage, of Mama Doni, a Jewish rock band for children. Since matzo is becoming more popular amongst the younger crowd, the concerts have been successful. “There were people waiting on line to get in,” said Alan Adler, the owner of Streit’s, “It was all 30 something couples with their fancy strollers with their kids. So we are definitely appealing to a new audience, not just Passover crowd.” Bringing in the customers to become part of the family, Streit’s is creating new relationships with its people.
Likewise, Katz’s Delicatessen’s new owner, Jake Dell, is celebrating Katz’s 125th anniversary this year with its people. “It’s [a] celebration of Lower East Side. It’s a celebration of New York,” said Dell. Dell slightly revealed the upcoming plans of 125th celebratory events at Katz’s this summer. “It’s fun,” said Dell. He also said the people in the community loved the idea as well and hopes that the customers will too. He plans to decorate the store, both inside and outside, under a certain theme for fun, entertaining nights for the customers.
When hungry customers march into the store, Dell is thrilled to lighten up their faces with Katz’s delicious offers that can put smiles on them. “It’s my job. I get to do that everyday,” said Dell, “Being a business in the city, isn’t just about doing business. It’s about taking care of the people.”
Although the Lower East Side and its community have changed since their early days, many businesses turn to their customers with new attitudes of relationships. Perhaps it may not able to replace the previous close-knit community within the owners. However, many business owners are looking forward to form a new community with their loyals and their customers.