Rose Kravitz

Rose Kravitz’s parents, Leopold and Sadie Hirschl, were raised in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Rose was born in Croatia, and she came to Youngstown with her family in the early 1920s.

Her parents spoke several languages, and they learned English after they arrived in the U.S.  Her father learned quickly that he needed to know English in order to be successful.  After an early failed effort at operating his own business and a stint at the Schwebel Bakery, he learned English and began working as an insurance salesman.  Because he spoke Hungarian, Croatian, and German, he was able to work well with other immigrants from his West Side office on Steel Street.

The family settled on the North Side, first on Benita and later in a home on Elm Street, near Tod Lane.  Rose had two younger brothers, Milton and Alex. She graduated from the Rayen High School nearby, but she didn’t go to college at first.  College, she explains, was for her brothers.  Sadie warned Rose that she needed to learn to become a good homemaker if she wanted to have a successful marriage.

Expectations were different for boys when it came to religion, too.  While the whole family went to temple for the holidays, the boys were tutored in Hebrew in order to prepare for their Bar Mitzvahs.

Rose Kravitz by the counter at the original Kravitz's Deli, near Crandall Park, in the 1950s

Rose Kravitz by the counter at the original Kravitz's Deli, near Crandall Park, in the 1950s

In 1939, after she married at age 20, Rose and her husband, Herb Kravitz, opened a delicatessen on Elm Street, near Thurston Avenue.  As she explains, they didn’t really know what they were getting into.  They didn’t even know that they needed a license to operate a food business.  With the help and plenty of credit from other local businesses, they were able to open the shop.  Irv Fine’s wife, Lucy, was among the first employees of Kravitz’s Deli.

The Kravitzes faced difficult times keeping the store going during World War II. Not only did many men go off to war, but food was being rationed.  They had to learn how to navigate the black market.  And they did well.

A few years after the war ended, they were able to purchase a building which would house the store downstairs and an apartment for the family upstairs, overlooking Crandall Park.  They kept the deli there through the 1960s, when they began to experience trouble in the neighborhood.  Some boys in the area were throwing rocks through their windows, and many of their white neighbors had moved out of the city, part of the “white flight” of the 1960s.  In 1970, Kravitz’s moved to a strip mall in Liberty, on Belmont Avenue.

Rose and her son Jack Kravitz, who now manages the deli

Rose and her son Jack Kravitz, who now manages the deli

Rose’s son, Jack, became an attorney, though he has since left that business to manage the deli.  Rose recalls some difficulties in the store in the 1960s, but she also expresses pride in her family’s efforts to maintain goodwill with all of their customers.  She recalls how a bad review in the Warren Tribune Chronicle generated some of her best business, because customers were prompted to come in after they read it, and several wrote letters to the paper complaining about the review, and that brought in even more customers.

For a while, the family operated a bagel business, with a large factory employing 75 people and supplying bagels to stores in 15 states.  Ultimately, the bakery failed, but the deli survived.  They still make bagels to sell there, and Rose’s son Jack has expanded the business to include catering.  Rose still works a few hours a week at the store. As she explains, her son now manages the business – quite well – and her job is to make people feel welcome.

Rose doing her job as "the head of PR" at Kravitz's Deli

Rose doing her job as "the head of PR" at Kravitz's Deli

To learn more about Rose’s life, read the full transcript of her conversation with Tom Welsh and her friend Irv Fine.

5 Responses to “Rose Kravitz”

  1. Linda says:

    Rose’s beef barley soup was always the best in town…especially if you were just coming off a bad cold…and was her chicken farfalle,mmmm…outstanding….more than the BEST!! RIP Rose..you will always hold a special place in our Youngstown, OH/Northside memories.

  2. Martha (Marty) Last says:

    My best friend’s mom, and my adopted mom. What a great lady!

  3. Martha (Marty) Last says:

    I love you Rose!

  4. Robert Vargo says:

    8/25/2011 Rest in Peace, Mrs. K. We’ll miss the conversation and friendship offered to everyone who visited the Deli. It won’t be quite the same without you….

  5. Judy Phipps says:

    I stumbled on this story this morning….went to Rayen with Donna Kravitz. I remember
    When the deli was downstairs and the apartment was upstairs. I remember Rose hand making bagels on afternoons after school. Youngstown was definitely a better time and a better place then!

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