Century-Old, Lower East Side Stalwart Yonah Schimmel Is Rumored to Be Closing Because This City Continues to Devour Itself

Yonah Schimmel via Wiki Commons

Have you ever had a knish? Like a good knish? Not one of those better-eat-elementary-school-art-class-paste-than-try-to-digest-this knishes that you get at a hot dog cart, but a flaky yet pillowy knish, in which each bite is featherlight, and yet the whole thing inevitably stays in your gut like a brick—a delicious, potato-y brick? Oh, you have? Then it was probably from Yonah Schimmel. And you should probably get another one while you still can. 

Yonah Schimmel’s knishery has stood in its Houston Street location for more than one hundred years—105 to be exact, since 1910. And in all that time, as the neighborhood around it transformed itself from an Eastern European Jewish stronghold to the Whole Foods-boasting, wealthy enclave it is today, Yonah Schimmel has seemed impervious to the changes around it. But now, rumors are circulating that it is financially threatened by a, you guessed it, raise in its rent, and might need to close. The initial rumor was first reported by Bowery Boogie, but was picked up by Eater and the New York Observer. (There has been no comment by anyone from Yonah Schimmel.) The news couldn’t come at a worse time for those people who still cling to the hope that the Lower East Side and East Village will retain some of their long held establishments. Just this year alone the 90-year-old Streit’s Matzoh Factory has announced its relocation to New Jersey, Continental Bar filed for bankruptcy, and Manitoba Bar seems in imminent danger of closure.

But the news of Yonah Schimmel’s potential demise hits particularly hard because the shop seemed indestructible due to just how resistant to change it had always been; its design remained static throughout the decades, and even when its neighboring building literally collapsed, Yonah Schimmel stayed upright. But it seems like even Yonah Schimmel might not be able to withstand the financial pressure of a rapacious landlord who hears the siren song of condos. And, of course, Yonah Schimmel is not alone in this—it’s next to impossible for any business to withstand that kind of pressure. But that kind of inevitability won’t make it any less sad when the final knish is sold and another tie to New York’s vibrant, diverse past is severed to make more room for its glossy, homogenous future.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


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