I was walking down 13th Avenue, the main shopping drag of Borough Park, and was shocked to find this gelato joint in the space held for decades by the bedrock glatt kosher Crown Deli. It apparently opened a year ago.
Crown Deli has been an anchor business on the street. It was a classic Jewish deli, with all that entails, and did a big catering business. I often went there after visiting my wife's great-aunt, who lived on 13th Avenue.
The Deli was one of many businesses owned by the wealthy Orthodox Jewish Rubashkin family. You may remember the name. The family ran into a heap a trouble a few years ago when Agriprocessors, the huge Kosher slaughterhouse and meat processing plant they owned in Postville, Iowa, was raided by U.S. government in 2008 for a host of violations. Among the charges: mistreatment of cattle, child labor violations and the use of hundreds of illegal immigrant workers. The company went into bankruptcy and was sold.
I remember walking past Crown during those days and reading a sign in the window to the effect that that Rubashkin family was being persecuted. In 2010, Sholom Rubashkin, the former manager of the meat plant, was sentenced to 27 years in jail.
Crown Deli, at 4909 13th Avenue, was run by Rivka Rabashkin, wife of family patriarch Aaron. Founded in 1960, it had a reputation not as a going concern, but as a sort of soup kitchen, with Rivka feeding for free anybody who was hungry. But it was close several times for health violations in recent years. I can not discover what ultimately did the place in, but have to imagine it was the culmination of the family's many troubles.
The place had a great neon sign, though it was old and never lit up. The metal support is still there, and now holds up the gelato sign.