Streit’s: 90 years and running

The oldest and last family owned matzo factory in the United States is closing the doors to its location on 154 Rivington Street in the Lower East Side after 90 years of operation. Though previously immune to the wave of gentrification, Alan M. Adler, great-grandson of founder Aron Streit made the decision to leave because of the outdated equipment and facilities in the four converted tenement buildings that house the company. Matzo, a Jewish staple during Passover, is unleavened bread made only of flour and water. While the brand is not shutting down but rather relocating to the outskirts of New York City, the building has been sold and will be repurposed and most likely, refurbished.

The factory is located in what historians have called the “Jewish Plymouth Rock,” a neighbourhood where many of the 2.5 million Jews who came to America in the early decades of the 1900s settled. Today as the area has become home to many other cultures, Streit’s has remained one of the last connections that the grandchildren of these immigrants can find to their ancestors.
The factory can produce about 900 pounds of matzo per hour and divides the year into two seasons, Passover and regular production. For Passover, the factory follows all the rules in the Torah for making matzo including their use of only flour and water. During regular months, they make nine different types of matzo and include ingredients such as salt to add flavour.
The machinery used for making the matzo dates back to before WWII, making it nearly impossible to find someone to repair it.
The factory also does not have a loading dock, making it very hard for delivery trucks to park outside on the busy streets of Manhattan.
The matzo is handled by both machines and workers. It comes out of the oven, is broken apart by workers and then is placed on racks to cool off and be packed and shipped.
The matzo travels on racks up and around the two floor building, it constantly moves all around the upper floor, making the factory look both whimsical and innovative even at its age.
The atmosphere inside the building is surprising. It transports you back in time and reminds you that old things can be just as functional and useful as the new.
Some of the workers have been with Streit’s for years and though they will be unemployed in the months in between the company’s move, they are promised jobs if they can accommodate the commute.
Streit’s ships all over the U.S and provides 40% of the country’s matzo.
Streit’s and its factory is not only a testament and remanent of history but also a successful business that has managed to survive and thrive unchanging for almost a century.
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