Around 1905, Joel Russ emigrated from Poland to New York’s Lower East Side and began selling herring from a pushcart, one of some 25,000 pushcart peddlers working the crowded Jewish ghetto. Joel was successful enough to open his own modest storefront in 1914. He married and had three daughters who started working in the store as children. As the girls grew into beautiful teenagers, they proved a big asset to his “appetizers” store; customers chose Russ’s shop over dozens of competitors because they enjoyed flirting with the lovely girls who pulled herring from the barrels.
In a remarkably forward thinking move for his day, Joel Russ named the girls partners, and passed the business on to them when he died. One of the daughters in turn passed Russ & Daughters Appetizers to her son, who is now in the process of passing it to his daughter and his nephew. The store is still located on the Lower East Side, and still very successful (they’ve branched out to sell lox and cream cheese, caviar and other delicacies). We interviewed three generations of the family who told us the story of their family and their store in sparkling detail.