After a bad case of COVID and a change in customer buying habits, owner Emily Jacobson has chosen to close Roslyn Kosher Foods. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp; Photo Credit: Emily Jacobson

On March 17, Roslyn Kosher Foods closed forever.

It wasn’t just the end of an era for its customers. The closing also marked the culmination of Emily Jacobson’s nearly 40-year tenure in the 1,350-square-foot Albertson store, including a decade as its owner.

“My regulars were really flipping out, and even those who come every couple of months or weeks weren’t happy. They thought I’d be here forever,” said Jacobson, whose married name is Ruggiero. “A lot of emotion came through the door.”

In those final days, the store’s longtime clientele, who had been so much a part of Jacobson’s everyday life, beelined to the shop not only to buy its kosher meat, cooked foods and packaged offerings but to exchange goodbye hugs and kisses with Jacobson. Many also expressed their farewells with gifts, including balloons, candies, plants and flowers.

Paul Woldar, 63, of Roslyn, was among the customers who came out for one final visit to the store. Jacobson is “amazing and will be missed by a lot of people,” he said, adding she and the store had been “so much a part of the community.”

For Jacobson, who lives in Melville, the kosher shop’s waning days were bittersweet.

“Looking back, it was a lot of hard work and stress and a lot of good times and friendships made along the way that I will never forget,” she said.

Jacobson took over the store in 2014 following the death of her father, a Hungarian immigrant who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp.

“My dream wasn’t to own a kosher food market, but it came my way and it became my life,” she said. “It became part of me and — not to pat myself on the back — I’m proud I was able to do it. I really didn’t think I could, but I did.”


In 1985, Jacobson, who grew up in Albertson and gave her age as “over 50,” said she started working at Roslyn Kosher soon after her father, Irwin “Eddie” Jacobson, and stepmother, Glady, purchased the operation. At the time, the store was just a butcher shop.

Irwin “Eddie” Jacobson in Roslyn Kosher.

Irwin “Eddie” Jacobson in Roslyn Kosher. Credit: Emily Jacobson Ruggiero

Before coming onboard, Jacobson, a migraine sufferer since age 12, hadn’t been able to hold down jobs because of her incapacitating headaches, she said. But after the shop’s cashier left, her father persuaded her to take the position with a promise that she couldn’t refuse: Any time she had a migraine, he said, she could stay home or go home and would never be fired.

His offer was “a godsend,” said Jacobson, noting that during her migraine-triggered absences, other employees, as well as her father, handled the register.

Throughout the years, Jacobson said she added other responsibilities to her daily tasks, including overseeing the meat department.

“One thing I can’t do is cut meat,” she said. “It wasn’t my thing, and I never needed to do it because there was always a butcher there.”

Her father also persuaded her sister, Julie, to join the business — if only temporarily. Since her sibling, who had worked for caterers, had yet to decide on a career, her father suggested that she help him launch a prepared-foods and catering department, Jacobson said.

Trolling other stores’ prepared-food counters to educate herself on the market and using her personal recipes to jump-start Roslyn Kosher’s new venture, Julie turned the added foodstuffs into a “monster” business, with the department becoming “her baby,” Jacobson said. And like her sister, Julie became a permanent store fixture.

Emily Jacobson with her sister, Julie.

Emily Jacobson with her sister, Julie. Credit: Emily Jacobson Ruggiero

“Julie and I were everything to my father, and he loved us more than anything else,” Jacobson said. As a Holocaust survivor, she said, “He never thought that he would see the day that he’d have his own children, and we were all close.”

Working under the same roof, the sisters often talked about running the shop together when their father retired.

But in 2011, Julie, then 54, died of bladder cancer — three years before her father passed away, at age 85, from kidney cancer.

When Jacobson returned to the store after Julie’s death, the adjustment was excruciating, she said.

Her father, himself on the threshold of retiring from active involvement in the business, showed the operation to a prospective buyer in July 2011 because, as he told Jacobson, “I didn’t think you’d want to continue without Julie.”

Despite her grief, Jacobson said she had become determined to sustain the store, including the catering and prepared foods business that had thrived under her sister.

With the Jewish high holidays just a couple of months away, and with her ongoing desire to uphold her sister’s legacy, as well as not disappoint the store’s customers, Jacobson said she asked her father to allow her to “push through to Rosh Hashanah” in September. How the store fared during such a busy time, she reasoned, would demonstrate whether she had the right stuff to keep it going.

Emily Jacobson with her father and sister in Roslyn Kosher.

Emily Jacobson with her father and sister in Roslyn Kosher. Credit: Emily Jacobson Ruggiero

To this day, she said she remains appreciative of all the suppliers who rallied to her side with their support and enabled her to sustain the shop as her family’s business.

After her father died in 2014, she was equally committed to staying the course.

Her husband, Vince Ruggiero, an account executive with a food broker, took over bookkeeping duties, ensuring Roslyn Kosher was making money.

And Jacobson’s employees supported her at the helm of the business, she said.

“I had a bigger staff than now — probably about six full-timers — [which had been] enough to keep going,” she said. Most recently, the store employed one full- and two part-time workers.

Jacobson noted that she valued the friendships she formed with many of her customers. “Quite a few begged us to open a place in the Hamptons,” she said. “But it wasn’t in the cards.”

Nevertheless, ownership proved challenging. “Once I took over, the weight on my shoulders was 24/7,” she said.  


Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 triggered a weeklong power failure that wiped out the shop’s entire frozen and refrigerated inventory, Jacobson recalled.

And in March 2020, she fell seriously ill with COVID-19 and had to be hospitalized. The illness impacted her stamina. Meanwhile, increased food prices during the pandemic hurt her business. Some of her customers “were turned off by the rise in prices,” she said, adding, “Who’s going to buy a rib steak for $45?” As a result, she said she kept increases to a minimum, which impacted her profit margins.

The community’s changing demographics and buying habits had also affected the business. During her father’s tenure, the store’s “clientele was kosher 24/7 and filled up wagons every day,” Jacobson said. “Now, a lot of people aren’t keeping kosher” or are limiting the tradition to the holidays.

Emily Jacobson, owner of Roslyn Kosher Foods, stands in her...

Emily Jacobson, owner of Roslyn Kosher Foods, stands in her shop on March 12. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Also, many of the store’s longtime kosher-committed customers have moved or died, or they became empty-nesters and bought far less from Jacobson than when their children lived at home, she said.

She also believes that Roslyn Kosher lost sales to larger multiaisle, kosher retailers, which offer a wider selection of food and home goods than she could.

At the Holtsville-based Nassau Provisions Kosher Foods Inc., which supplies an extensive selection of products to retail markets throughout the tristate area, including Roslyn Kosher for four decades, Brandon Horowitz, an executive with the family-owned distributor, said the challenges that Jacobson faced weren’t unique to her business.

“It’s not just the kosher butcher shop but the kosher deli” that has disappeared, particularly if they had mostly “secular” Jewish customers who are generally less committed to keeping kosher than earlier generations or Orthodox Jews, Horowitz said.

As the years passed, with business not what it once was, Jacobson said she didn’t hire new workers to fill positions vacated by employees who had retired or relocated. Instead, existing employees assumed new or added responsibilities. And because COVID-19 had zapped her energy, she stopped catering and making deliveries.

Since this past summer, intent on retiring but keeping the business alive, Jacobson said she tried to sell it, but no serious buyer materialized.

Although Jacobson’s two sons, both in their 20s, had helped out during the Rosh Hashanah and Passover rushes, running the store “wasn’t their cup of tea,” she said. Moreover, a small kosher food market “is a dying breed, and something they couldn’t count on for their future.”  


Earlier in March, Roslyn Kosher’s website featured a letter from Jacobson announcing the store’s closing and thanking customers for their “unwavering support, trust and loyalty.” The site also urged customers to “stop by and stock up on your favorites.”

And they did.

“I can’t even believe the amount of people coming to the store all day long,” Jacobson said in those final days.

With Passover just a month away, many customers had asked her to stay open a bit longer, wondering why she was shutting down before the holiday.

Looking back, it was a lot of hard work and stress and a lot of good times and friendships made along the way that I will never forget.

-Emily Jacobson 

But Jacobson entertained no second thoughts, explaining that the store lacked the staffing to take on the holiday. Its past holiday help had died or was now grown up with full-time jobs, she said.

“When I heard she was closing, I was very sorry,” said Francine Lerner, who keeps a kosher home and had shopped at Roslyn Kosher for 24 years. “They knew me and they knew what I liked. The meats were superior and so was the service.”

The “over-50” Searingtown resident said she had no choice but “to start making an adjustment” in her shopping routine and patronize another kosher shop, even if it wasn’t going to be as convenient for her.

As Jacobson closes one chapter of her life to start another — retirement — she said she plans to devote the start of her newfound time to “resting, recuperating and recovering” from the stressful ownership years. Plus, Roslyn Kosher’s finale had been an “emotional rollercoaster,” she said.

Her to-do list also includes fixing up her home, which she said had been neglected “as the store took over my life.”

But, in reflecting on all her years at Roslyn Kosher Foods, Jacobson said she “will miss the many who were there for me in the good times, when I had my sons, and in the hard times, when my sister and father died.”

And, she added, “I wouldn’t trade the extra time the store enabled me to spend with my father and sister. I’m so thankful for that.”

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