Can you smell the salami?

Before big supermarket chains took over, stores in my neighborhood specialized in one thing. On Bryn Mawr Avenue, our main commercial strip, for example, there was an egg store, a fruit and vegetable store, two fish stores and three Kosher butcher shops. (See my Bryn Mawr Hall of Fame for a complete listing.)

Most Bryn Mawr Avenue shops, food or otherwise, were family owned. Many of these families lived in the neighborhood and their children attended local schools, Peterson Elementary School, Von Steuben High School or Arie Crown Day School. Everyone knew everyone–actually, many were related–not just from our neighborhood, which we called Hollywood Park and now is more widely known as North Park, but they knew one another from their previous neighborhoods on the Jewish West Side of Chicago. From about the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, on the strength of those personal relationships, Hollywood Park supported a lively, healthy business district that was about four city blocks long. In her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs described this kind of neighborhood as having “eyes on the street.”

There was another butcher, a couple doors south of Bryn Mawr on the east side of Kedzie, called Lazar’s Kosher Sausage Factory. It’s where my mother bought salami and hot dogs. She didn’t just buy for our immediate family; twice a year she bought salami and five pounds of hot dogs for her father, who lived in a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania, Beaverdale, which did not have and was not near a Kosher butcher. My mother froze the meat and we took it in a box by train or by car, depending on how we were travelling at the time.

My Zeide, my grandfather, really enjoyed the Lazar’s meats. In my eyes, being the supplier of something my grandfather appreciated so heartily gave us–the Chicago branch of the family–a certain temporary status. He hung the salami on a cabinet knob in his kitchen, and for a meat lunch, he would slice the thinnest of slices and make us sandwiches on black bread. To be honest about my memories, I have to admit I really wanted Wonder bread but that was forbidden in my Zeide’s house. In fact, most of the Eastern European foods that he ate and expected us to eat were a 1960s-era American child’s nightmare. In retrospect, however, he was ahead of his time in terms of natural food trends.

A few years ago, I wrote a blogpost about my vivid “smell the salami” memories of Lazar’s. In researching the history of Lazar’s, I found out the business had moved from the West Side in 1955, following its clientele to the newer Jewish areas in Albany Park, Hollywood Park and Peterson Park. From the comments I received, I learned many others shared my fond memories. I also learned more about the family who had owned–still owns–Lazar’s.

I learned that the owner, Sol Lazar, and his wife, Eva, had lived in Peterson Park, the neighborhood to the north of Hollywood Park. Eventually they had 23 grandchildren. One of his great-grandchildren wrote a lovely note to me saying she hadn’t met him, but appreciated that people remembered the family business. A number of newspaper accounts note that the family generously supported Jewish causes. Terry Brown, the son of Willie Daniel, a butcher who worked at Lazar’s, wrote this comment about Sol Lazar:

Sol Lazar was a good man. He would show off the plant and have a tray of house made goodies for us, hotdogs, salami, baloney, kiska, pickled green tomatoes, Kaiser rolls, onion rolls, etc., just to name a few. He loved helping people, he treated his employees like family.

In Jerusalem, Sol Lazar’s daughter and her husband, who had worked at Lazar’s on Kedzie, uphold the legacy of Lazar’s Kosher Meats. I learned of the store from one of my classmates from Von Steuben, Sherry Cizek Magid, who sent me these photos. On the wall of the Jerusalem store are photographs of the Chicago Lazar stores. On the right is the one I remembered on Kedzie Avenue; on the left the location that preceded it on Roosevelt Avenue on the West Side.

Lazar's meat shop

In remembering the old neighborhood as it was, I don’t often come across photographs, so each one feels like a gift. In those days, people did not take a lot of photographs. Some did, but many families who owned businesses on Bryn Mawr in Hollywood Park do not have photographs of the family stores.


Lazar’s storefront, 2015, Jerusalem, Israel. Courtesy, Sherry Cizek Magid.

So, thank you, Sherry, for thinking of me and sharing these photographs. After Lazar’s on Kedzie was sold to Kosher Zion, Sherry’s father, Sam Cizek, worked there as a counter man.

Lazar's Kosher Meats

Sol Lazar opened Lazar’s Kosher Sausage Factory in 1913 on the 3600 block of Roosevelt Road.

Read more: My first blogpost about Lazar’s: If they wanted to live next door to a sausage factory, they would have stayed on the West Side.

29 Responses to Can you smell the salami?

  1. Sherry Magid April 4, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

    Thanks Frances, a lovely story.

    Visiting the store in Jerusalem feels very nostalgic the family can tell you many stories of the days in Hollywood Park.

    In fact, the store is the only place in Jerusalem where you can get “all beef” hot dogs. Most hot dogs in Israel are made from ground turkey, so they have quite a following of American expats!


  2. Frances Archer April 4, 2016 at 8:53 pm #

    Thanks again. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

  3. Gene schultz April 4, 2016 at 8:55 pm #

    Such delicious memories. I lived about 2,blocks from 12th Street store and often went to the factory on Kedzie I can still smell the salami as it hung from the rack, and taste the pickles and sour tomatoes as they came out of the barrell.

  4. Arnie Solars April 4, 2016 at 9:07 pm #

    Thank you for bringing back such good memories.My dad and I went there every Sunday morning to load up on Corned Beef,Pastrami,an occasional garlic ring plus other great meat products and some side dishes.I had an apartment on Sawyer off of Bryn Mawr,I would walk over and load up on such good food .No wonder I have clogged arteries.

  5. Harriet Wisch Vogel April 4, 2016 at 9:32 pm #

    Thanks Frances. I love reading your stories and also those contributed by your followers. They bring back such vivid memories of the “old’ neighborhood. I just turned 80, but reading your blog makes me feel like a kid again, returning to my carefree days growing up in Albany Park as well as other areas where my friends lived in Hollywood Park, etc.

  6. Frances Archer April 4, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

    Thank you Harriet! So nice to hear from you and I’m glad you enjoy the memories.

  7. Frances Archer April 4, 2016 at 9:37 pm #

    It’s the best food in the world, but, perhaps, not the healthiest.

  8. Frances Archer April 4, 2016 at 9:37 pm #

    Gene, I agree, the aromas are still so vivid to me too.

  9. Howard Glantz April 5, 2016 at 8:26 am #

    Prior to Lazer’s was Fader’s Deli on the north side of Bryn Mawr around Sawyer. The store could have sold the smell alone. You felt as if you had that corned beef sandwich in your hand as you walked into the store. Mrs. Fader was a tiny lady while her husband was a large man. She had a memorable voice that you didn’t want to hear in a dark alley. The food was very good carry out only as I remember. I was never a large person but I never bought less that two sandwiches.

    If I remember right a salesman from Lazer.s named Marvin Diamond bought into Mitches Hot Dog store on Lawrence just west of Kimball with Ray Hara. I and the rest of the Lil Gents spent many hours there and some of us worked for them there and next door at Flukeys which they also owned.

  10. Frances Archer April 5, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    Thanks, Howard! This is a two-fer contribution to the blog. We get updated on Fader’s Deli, which I had listed as Feder’s in the Bryn Mawr Hall of Fame, and more information on Mitch’s, in the event I ever realize my long-delayed project of the Lawrence Avenue Hall of Fame. By the way, can you confirm the spelling is Fader’s?

  11. Bob Field April 5, 2016 at 10:25 am #

    It was spelled” Feder’s,” but was pronounced as “Fader’s.” LONG A

  12. Frances Archer April 5, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

    Thanks for the clarification, Bob!

  13. Barry Henry April 5, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

    Sherry, thanks for the info on the store in Jerusalem, were going to be there next month and will have to find them. My parents lived a block north on Jersey in the late 60’s.

  14. Bonnie Hanna April 5, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    my mom’s friend Molly Barasch was the cashier there for years. A big treat was “a nickel a shtickel” a salami stick, the Jewish slim Jim. We too brought the salamis to my grandmother who lived in Mexico City, having been turned away at Ellis island due to the immigrant quota being full, settled in Mexico, with many Jewish families.

  15. Sherry Magid April 5, 2016 at 2:54 pm #

    The store is on Agrippas close to the shuk. It’s easy to find.

  16. Frances Archer April 5, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

    Bonnie, you are the second person today who has mentioned Molly. My friend from Peterson, Neil Rosenbaum, also mentioned that his mom’s friend was Molly. The “nickle a shtickel” line seems to have got around. They used at the Purity Deli as well. Wondering if it was a Chicago saying or national?

  17. Frances Archer April 5, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

    Yes, Barry, you should go!

  18. Paul Warshawsky April 5, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

    What great memories, Thank God in Buena Park California We have Portillo’s Hot Dogs and Italian Beef, What a great place. We drive an hour to get there twice a month. They have great Tamales too

  19. Peg (Schub) April 5, 2016 at 5:39 pm #

    I loved going to Lazar’s as a kid. I too remember the smells. Standing by the counter with my parents, looking in the glass case, the man behind the counter in his white apron would lean over and give me a piece of bologna to munch on while my parents shopped. Thanks for the memories!

  20. Arnie Solars April 5, 2016 at 7:36 pm #

    I was happy to get Portillos in the Phoenix,AZ area,not close to home but maybe some day.Malanti’s pizza is opening up soon in Phoenix.Paul, I hope all is well with you.

  21. Paul Warshawsky April 5, 2016 at 7:44 pm #

    Everythings great Arnie, Turned 74 in January married 50 years in July have 4 good kids 3 of whom are doing well and 7 grandchildren also doing pretty well. How’s things with you? Is your health good? My health is good, I workout 5 days a week and I was a competitive runner for almost 50 years, ran Boston and competed all over the Midwest in various age groups. Was in the Health Club Industry for over 40 years. How about you? I hope you’re having a great life, Paul and Mary Louise Warshawsky

  22. Arnie Solars April 5, 2016 at 7:55 pm #

    Hi Paul,
    I just turned 73 in Jan.,have 3 great kids,2 even greater granddaughters In July I wll be married for41 years to a great and understanding wife.(2nd marriage). Health is fair had heart bypass almost 19yrs ago.and the heart is still ticking.I am happy to see that you are a marathon runner,I tire out driving 23&1/2 miles.(LOL).Stay well.Great hearing from you.

  23. Frances Archer April 5, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

    Hi, Peg! “Im guessing your my old neighbor across the alley, right? Or there are two Margaret Schubs from Hollywood Park. Yes, I forgot about the bologna slices. Yum. Thanks for stopping by.

  24. Paul Warshawsky April 5, 2016 at 8:29 pm #

    Glad you’re well Arnie, My Birthday’s Jan 3rd Maybe one day in Vegas (Our very favorite place in the world) We’ll have a nice dinner with our great wives.

  25. Ralph April 6, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    Is this the same family as Lazar’s Juvenile Furniture that used to be on Devon Avenue?

  26. Frances Archer April 6, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    Ralph, I haven’t heard anyone mention that connection, so I don’t know.

  27. Ralph April 8, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    Great article. Thanks Frances

  28. Len April 13, 2016 at 11:06 am #

    I once saw Lazars salami exposed to wonder bread causing immediate decomposition (of the salami).

  29. Frances Archer April 13, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    I was too young to know any better! Of course, now I would choose my grandfather’s black bread over Wonder bread.

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