Earlier this month, Streit’s matzo factory announced it is selling its four converted tenement buildings and leaving New York City’s Lower East Side, 90 years after it opened in 1925. The neighborhood was once home to hundreds of thousands of Jews, not far from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and other large Manhattan manufacturers. Now, the area around Streit’s on Rivington Street is home to stores like Teany, the health food cafe owned by electronica DJ Moby.
Today, Streit’s is still owned and operated by the descendants of founder Aron Streit. The family expected to stay forever. For years, they resisted offers of tens of millions of dollars to sell the buildings. When the Jewish community left the Lower East Side and Streit’s stayed, the brand gained legitimacy from its continued association with the old neighborhood. With time, it became one of the most prominent matzo makers in the country.
Walking around the 80-year-old ovens, it seems miraculous the factory lasted so long. The smell of toast and smoke hangs in the factory air, where the same employees worked for many decades on increasingly ancient machines. “I thought we would be here a lifetime,” says Aron Yagoda, executive vice president of Streit’s, and Aron Streit’s great grandson.
The family won’t say what they received for their buildings, but they nearly agreed to sell for $25m in 2008, and Lower East Side real estate has only grown pricier since. Streit’s is not, however, merely cashing out. “I’d rather be the generation that moved Streit’s than the last generation of Streit’s,” says Yagoda. The money from the sale will be spent largely on making Streit’s a stronger company. “Our goal is to go from the most inefficient, out-of-date facility to the most efficient, state-of-the-art facility in the world” says Gross. As Streit’s decides not to turn into a charming old museum, it will, at least, retain the vitality of a business that wants to survive.
All in the Family: Target Spotlights Streit's Matzo - "We visited the storied Streit's Matzo factory in the Lower East Side of Manhattan to learn about the process of making matzo. Here's a hint, their formula hasn't changed since 1925."