Matzah may be “poor man’s bread,” but in the case of Streit’s, the factory where the unleavened bread is baked is valuable real estate.
Aron Streit, Inc., recently announced that it is putting its four-building factory located on the corner of Rivington and Suffolk streets on the market for $25 million.
The company plans to build a new facility, possibly in New Jersey, said a Streit family member. Streit’s currently operates a warehouse and dry pack operation in Moonachie, N.J., distributing its regular, lightly salted, egg & onion and whole-wheat matzahs worldwide.
“The family is sad that we will have to move,” said Alan Adler, whose great-grandfather, Aron Streit, and his wife Nettie, founded the matzah bakery at the turn of the 20th century and converted the current building from four tenements in 1925. “But from a business perspective, this is the way to go.”
News that the last family-owned matzah bakery on the Lower East Side is moving out of the neighborhood left crumbs of nostalgia in its wake. The Streit’s matzah factory has been a long-time Jewish fixture of the Lower East Side. This landmark move represents the changing nature of the Jewish character on the Lower East Side, in which hipsters and wealthy young professionals are transforming the gritty immigrant enclave into prime real estate.
While the successful completion of the Eldridge Street Project represents a renaissance of sorts for the Jewish Lower East Side, kosher establishments there just can’t compete with the area’s soaring rents.
In June, Gertel’s kosher bakery shuttered its doors. And the Second Avenue Deli, a former Lower Manhattan staple, celebrated its grand opening last week in its new locale in Midtown. The Grand Deli, a Lower East Side classic, was closed for several years but was replaced by Noah’s Ark in 2003.
Despite down-zoning and possible landmarking of the Lower East Side, “Demand has never been higher,” says Michael DeCheser, director of sales with Massey Knakal Realty Services. “We thought the asking price was somewhat aggressive, but in retrospect, and given the offers on the property, we were spot on.” The 47,000-square-foot property will most likely be torn down and converted into luxury condominiums, he says. An offer above the asking price of $25 million is on the table.
The Streit family cited congested streets, noise complaints, and a desire to update the factory with modern equipment as reasons for moving the factory out of the Lower East Side. “The neighborhood is changing, and this building couldn’t support us,” said Adler.
But there’s no need to mourn Streit’s red brick factory just yet — the 2,000 pounds of matzah produced each hour isn’t grinding to a halt anytime soon. Although the company doesn’t offer tours (“There’s too much dangerous equipment,” Adler says), visitors to the retail store can watch the matzah coming out of the ovens for at least the next year. Streit’s plans to cut a deal with the buyer allowing them to lease the factory for 12 to 18 months, while the new facility is being built.
In the meantime, prospective buyers are getting an education about matzah. “When walking a prospective buyer through the property, for every question we’re asked about the real estate, we get 10 questions about how to make matzah!” said DeCheser.
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