Fostering Community Through A Shared Past
Rosie watched as Irving worked tirelessly to earn a living and save for a future the two of them envisioned for their growing family. When the opportunity to own a restaurant presented itself, Rosie and Irving seized it.
Food, after all, brings people together. Irving and Rosie watched it happen at Irving's Delicatessen, a restaurant they opened in Hamtramck, Michigan despite having no experience in the industry.
After surviving all they had, they knew they could find ways to make a restaurant successful. Even if it meant learning along the way. Life experience, grit, endurance and a sense of endearing, honest connections with others was all they needed.
They were able to purchase the restaurant with the money they had painstakingly saved while Irving worked in Detroit's iconic auto industry. Rosie taugher herself to make incredible food — recipes that would make Irving's Delicatessen stand out.
The Birth Of Irving's Delicatessen
Rosie schooled herself on the many ethnic recipes that appealed to the immigrant populations in the neighborhoods surrounding the deli. She helped Irving’s Delicatessen become known for specific favorites, such as Gefilte fish, fresh challah bread and chicken-in-the-pot with kreplach, matzah ball and boiled potato.
Corned beef. Old fashioned boiled whitefish. Stuffed cabbage, baked lamb shanks, breaded fried chicken — Rosie perfected comfort classics that attracted droves of regulars. And she never needed a measuring spoon. For her, it was all feel.
Many of the regulars at Irving’s, who often came in daily, shared a common past with Irving and Rosie, surviving the indignities, the loss and the brutality of the Holocaust and discovering a new life of promise and hope in America — specifically, Detroit.
Irving's Delicatessen was where they connected, where they shared stories, where they indulged in classic, delicious favorites and where they knew they’d find a common thread among other diners and especially with its owners.
1954-1974 Irving and Rosie purchased Harry's Deli in Hamtramck, MI and changed the name to Irving's Deli
1974-1987 Second Irving's Deli location in Southfield, MI
1983-1991 Third Irving's Deli location in Troy, MI
A Love For Life
What began with one location evolved in time to three. Irving's Deli, thanks to the hard work and enduring commitment of Rosie and Irving, had become one of the most highly regarded delis in Michigan during the 1980s.
A large part of that reputation was rooted in who Rosie and Irving were, as people.
It was commonplace for Rosie to invite into the kitchen the kids dining at the deli, who would then visit Irving — after helping with food prep — to learn a new word or phrase from one of the six languages he knew. They'd return to their table with a new pack of gum and a story to tell.
If regulars didn't come in as usual, Rosie and Irving noticed. They would call to check in on them, and if someone was sick, send them soup for the week. Rosie pulled people in, speaking to them hip to hip. Irving spent his extra time transporting new immigrants to a brunch they'd host at their home — to make sure everyone felt welcome.
— Jerry Guttman, Irving and Rosie's youngest son
That family began with Rosie and Irving. She loved him in ways that sometimes made it hard for her to find the words. And she knew he loved her.
"He never had a bad day in his life, except when he lost his legs. But everything was still beautiful," she said. "I had a wonderful husband. He made up for everything I didn't have."
— Rosie Guttman