Manhattan matzo factory adapts, thrives
Streit’s, Inc., located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, isn’t your typical family business.
For one thing, it’s been around for nearly a century. For another, it produces, on an hourly basis, 1,100 pounds of matzo, the unleavened bread traditionally eaten by Jews during Passover.
“The business started originally with my great-grandfather Aron Streit and his elder son Irving Streit,” Alan Adler, one of the owners of the factory, told the wire service.
“We now have two fourth-generation cousins and one fifth-generation cousin running the business, and in addition there are other family members who have stock but don’t work every day.”
Producing the company’s Passover matzos is no simple task. The fare, which symbolizes the Jewish exodus from Egypt 5,000 years ago and traditionally consists of just flour and water, must be made following strict religious requirements.
Under Jewish law, the time from when the flour and water are mixed to when the crackers are cooked has to be less than 18 minutes.
At Streit’s, three rabbis normally supervise production. During the Passover season, that number soars to as many as eight, according to Agence France-Presse.
“If there is ever a break in the line, the rabbis have stop watches and they time it,” Adler said. “If we can’t get back up and running in a few minutes, everything is thrown out and we clean the machinery and we start again.”
Streit’s operates in a factory that spans six floors and features a 33-foot oven dating back to the 1930s. The building is located in a historically Jewish neighborhood that once attracted immigrants from Eastern Europe.
Early on, customers lined up around the block outside a small bakery to get Streit’s products.
But as customers moved out of the Lower East Side, Streit’s business model changed from direct sales to moving products through distributors, which then resold them in stores throughout the US, Canada, Mexico and Russia, Adler said.
And in a bid to reach a wider audience outside the Passover holiday season, the company has expanded its offerings by “infusing its all-kosher fare with flavors such as sundried tomatoes, basil and onion powder following less strict dietary guidelines,” the wire service added.
It also sells a passel of other products including soup, cake and potato pancake mixes.