By Laura Porter
“It was 40 years of running the store: putting in 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week,” Manny Weintraub recalled of life at his family’s Worcester deli in a 2014 interview.
“A day off was when you opened up at 7 a.m. and you could go home at three.”
Weintraub, 92, who died on Dec. 21st after a short illness, was “the last of the Weintraub dynasty,” says his niece, Margie Cohen Potash.
His parents, Sam and Ida, began Weintraub’s Deli and Restaurant on Worcester’s Water Street in 1920, when a vibrant Jewish life thrived in the neighborhood. Manny and his two older brothers, Robert, or Bobby, and Alfred, known as Nookie, grew up working in the family deli and took over from their father after serving during World War II. At one time, in the 1950s and 1960s, the Weintraubs also owned two Samson’s Restaurants, and a catering business. Manny sold the deli in the 1980s.
Along the way, he met and married Clara Goodman, the “love of his life,” and had two children, David and Lee Ann, and two grandchildren, Amanda and Jordan; a great-grandchild is on the way. Last June, he and Clara celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
“He adored her, and she him,” says their son, David. “They were a holding-hands kind of couple. It was a wonderful love story.”
For Manny, family in general was important.
“Whether it was me or if he was working in the store and someone came in, he’d ask, ‘How are the kids, how’s the family?’” David says. “He was ready to take the order but he’d check in first to see how you were doing.”
Like any family business, everyone was on deck. The three Weintraub brothers and their sister, Belle, worked long days, and all of the cousins helped out. David worked behind the deli counter and his sister, Lee Ann, worked in the set-up area.
David remembers that “If the phone rang at ten o’clock in the morning and it was my father, saying ‘get down here; I need you,’ you go. It was like being a doctor on call with the deli.” He added that if someone didn’t show up to work, his father would glance out the window onto Water Street and pull in anyone he knew to help out in a pinch.
By all accounts, Manny was the mildest of the brothers, patient and kind.
“He was a sweet guy,” David says. “Everyone loved my father; he was easy to deal with.”
By contrast, “Everybody was afraid of Bobby. Bobby was the lion, Nookie was the beast,” he laughs. “They were both tough to work with. Manny was the middle guy between them – he was easy-going.”
His father loved playing golf. He was also “quite the artist,” often sketching on an order pad while on the telephone taking an order. After he died, David discovered a painting of Moses his father had done in his mother’s basement; it is now hanging at his own home.
But his main talent could be found at the deli. “The way he cut pastrami, bologna, salami. He didn’t use the machine unless it was really busy and he had to shake and bake. He was a carver. He used to carve our Thanksgiving turkey, and there was nothing left on that carcass. He cut it to perfection,” David recalls.
After Manny sold the deli, he spent 10 years behind the deli counter at the Big D grocery store on Park Avenue, greeting the customers who had loved going to Weintraub’s.
Last fall, when David took him to Beth Israel for Rosh Hashanah, “he was a little bit of a celebrity walking in there. Lots of people came over and gave him a nice little handshake and a hug.”