Monday, July 28, 2008

Interview with Helene D. Grossman (Part 2)

1. What was your impression of running Dubrow's, for Irwin and for George? Did it seem to bring them joy? Did it seem stressful? Which store(s) did they run and for how long?

"Irwin stepped up to the plate to run Seventh Avenue, and our family’s interests in Eastern Parkway and Florida, after George’s death. He had worked there prior to that but was not at all set on committing to the restaurant business as a career, despite having majored in Hotel and Restaurant Administration at Cornell. I believe his reluctance was due to a number of factors typical of Jewish sons in the 1950’s, including wanting to apply newer management models and other knowledge that they has acquired in college to their family business with their dads not being convinced this was needed and in Irwin’s case, issues relating to the fact that George was somewhat of a legend in the field.

Nonetheless he ran Seventh Avenue, and together with Irving Kaplan acquired Toby’s Cafeterias (3, I think) in Miami in the 1960's, which Irving ran. [Note: Toby’s were in non-Jewish neighborhoods and served Southern style food, with favorites being chicken dumplings and black eye peas.]

In the mid 1960s Irwin opened Dubrow’s Takeout Shop (exact name?), on Third Avenue and 74th Street in Manhattan, which Leonard [Irwin's brother] ran. It offered many packaged, prepared foods for which Dubrows was known but it was just a bit ahead of its time. That area and all around NYC is now filled with that type of prepared food take out shops. Irwin subsequently opened, ran and expanded Alfie's restaurant at that location. Irwin came to enjoy the business more as time went on but differently than George. It was not his whole life to nearly the same extent as it was George’s. Irwin ran the Seventh Avenue cafeteria and Alfies until his death in 1970.

Irving Kaplan and Paul Tobin purchased the Seventh Avenue cafeteria in 1971(?), with Paul running the day to day operation, and Irving’s oversight and active involvement in all management decisions and regular on-site participation about every 6-8 weeks. The property was purchased by the bank adjacent to the cafeteria, which planned to expand/build a garage, and the cafeteria closed. The expansion/garage never went forward and today, an OTB parlor is on this site!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Interview with Helene D. Grossman (Part 1)

I caught up with my cousin Helene a couple weeks ago, and she graciously took the time to answer some questions about Dubrow's for me, in a somewhat formal written interview. I'll be posting her responses over a series of posts.

Just for reference: Helene is the daughter of George Dubrow, sister of Irwin Dubrow, and granddaughter of Benjamin Dubrow, all of whom managed Dubrow's at different times.

1. What was your impression of running Dubrow's, for Irwin and for George? Did it seem to bring them joy? Did it seem stressful? Which store(s) did they run and for how long?

"For George, Dubrow’s was his life. He loved every aspect of running the “stores”. George had an incredible joie de vivre, was very much a people person and enjoyed interacting with his employees at all levels as well as with his customers. He shared their happinesses, trials and tribulations and lent his ear and advice and often, financial support. I still have a ring that a customer gave him in appreciation of his kindnesses. His measure of quality control was a random tablespoon of prepared foods, especially his favorites, before they left the kitchen…he was a bit rotund and we all thought this was his best excuse not to stick to a diet! He was not a morning person, and usually went to work at around noon, staying until midnight, the exception being most Friday nights, when he came home for dinner, under duress from my mother, usually returning to work after that. George’s personal and business philosophy was that you are only as good as tomorrow, not yesterday. I suspect that fed his drive for success. There certainly were stressful situations at times, particularly dealing with the unions….I think there were 6 or 7. "

She goes on to provide some more detail about George's history at Dubrow's, which I found very helpful:

"George opened and initially ran all of the cafeterias which included Dubrows Eastern Parkway (Utica Avenue), Dubrows Kings Highway ( 16th St), Dubrow's Lincoln Road (Miami Beach), Dubrow's Seventh Avenue (Manhattan) and Dubson's Restaurant (on Utica Avenue around the corner from Dubrows Eastern Parkway Cafeteria). "

Much more to come - about Irwin, about Max Tobin, and more! Stay tuned.