For generations, Streit's matzo factory has been a fixture on the Lower East Side, but now, the factory is closing its doors, one more change in a neighborhood that's undergone a dramatic transformation. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
The ovens at the Streit's factory are fired up, churning out sheet after sheet of Matzo for what will be the company's final Passover at this location. The cousins who run the century-old family business say the Lower East Side is just not suitable for modern-day production.
"There's a lot of hoops that we have to jump through that really just don't allow us to be competitive in a very competitive marketplace," said Aaron Gross, executive vice president at Streit's.
Founded by Aron Streit in 1915, the company moved into its current site in 1925. The assembly line moves across four buildings and six stories.
"The matzo goes upstairs, downstairs, upstairs, downstairs, in the basement. It hits every floor," said Aron Yagoda, executive vice president at Streit's.
Outside, the streets are narrow, and there's no loading zone, so their trucks get ticketed every day.
The problems here aren't only logistical, they're also technical. Some of this machinery dates back to the 1930s, and when something breaks, finding replacement parts is nearly impossible.
Streit's is one of the last reminders of what was once a very different corner of New York, a neighborhood of immigrant Jews and the small businesses they owned.
Annie Polland of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum said the area has changed dramatically. Property values are soaring, and an overwhelming number of storefronts are now occupied by what she calls the ABCs.
"Art galleries, boutiques and cafes," Polland said.
Still, many Jewish families returned year after year to get their passover matzo at Streit's.
"The closing of Streit's Matzo is not only about the closing of a story that they were fond of, but I think everything that it symbolized about the Lower East Side as a kind of Jewish Plymouth Rock," Polland said.
The closing is also hard on the factory's 30 employees, like Michael Abramov, a baker here for 25 years.
"This is like our second house," Abramov said.
The family said every worker will be offered a job in the new location, likely New Jersey. They also stressed that the factory is closing, not their business. Streit's will still make matzo, but this matzo plant will just be a memory.