Tucked away above a bustling swap-meet of jewelry purveyors in midtown Manhattan’s diamond district, blintzes and gefilte fish have attracted kosher-keeping visitors from around the country since at least 1955. But no more: at the beginning of this month, Diamond Dairy closed down after failing to renegotiate a lease with the building’s new owners, ABS Partners Real Estate.
“A new real estate firm bought the building and I couldn’t get a new lease, I was evicted, whatever you want to call it,” said Diamond Dairy owner Samuel Strauss, who used to commute every day from the Orthodox suburb of Monsey, in Westchester County, to this block of West 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Strauss noted that nearly two dozen other tenants have met the same fate: “In about two years he wants this building completely vacant. He wants to turn it into a fancy office building.” Strauss said that by mid-January he will begin looking for a venue in the diamond district where he can reopen.
The old-fashioned dairy restaurant’s chief mourners are the jewelers who work in the area, many of them Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox Jews.
“I used to eat there every day,” said vendor Gaby Raz. “Delicious food. The best tuna fish, scrambled eggs, blintzes, cholent. I remember when I first came here”—in 1976—“the old woman who had opened the place was still there. She reminded me of my grandmother.”
A room adjacent to the restaurant was used daily for mincha, the afternoon prayer service, and Talmud study, which made it an even more popular destination.
“If somebody comes to midtown from anywhere in the United States and they want to daven mincha, they come here,” said Yitzchok Fleischer, another vendor. The short service would be held six times in a row so that if a worshiper missed one, another would quickly follow.
Diamond Dairy also drove business to the jewelers on the floor below, including the many tourists for whom the restaurant was a New York landmark. They’re still showing up, Raz said, not knowing that the restaurant has closed.
“People are shocked. They almost cry,” Raz said. “Let me tell you, darling: nothing in life is forever. Nothing but Hashem.”
Ari M. Brostoff is Culture Editor at Jewish Currents.