Jack Goldenson, 77, longtime proprietor of Jack's Corned Beef & Delicatessen

February 15, 2005|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Jack Goldenson, a former East Lombard Street delicatessen owner who once had dreams of his business becoming a Jewish McDonald's, died at a nursing home in Scottsdale, Ariz., Feb. 8 of complications from heart surgery performed in October. The former Towson resident was 77.

A native of Lublin, Poland, Mr. Goldenson lost his parents and five siblings to World War II and concentration camps.

As a 13-year-old orphan, he traveled alone - and often hungry - through parts of Russia, Persia, Pakistan and Palestine before coming to New York in 1946, he told an Evening Sun reporter years later. He settled in Baltimore in 1948 and opened a grocery store at Washington and Jefferson streets.

"I made $50 a week profit there," he said in the 1982 interview that also included the simple secret of his corned beef: "Cook it and sell it, daily and fast."

After owning stores on Barclay, Fayette and Lexington streets, Mr. Goldenson established Jack's Deli in 1965 on Lombard near Central Avenue. Always dabbling in real estate, he bought up properties across the street that provided space to open a larger, 13,000-square- foot Jack's Corned Beef & Delicatessen that featured a cafeteria line and off-street parking.

"It was supposed to cost $200,000 and wound up costing $600,000. He was a nervous wreck," said his daughter, Estelle Goldenson of Owings Mills. "His investors helped him."

He said that his success was based on his total preparation of the corned beef - many of his competitors ordered processed beef and then steamed it. He eliminated the middleman by doing all the work himself, his daughter said.

"My father was always a visionary, a dreamer. He was a risk-taker and a gambler."

She described her father as being a "born businessman" who wanted his kitchen to be "immaculately clean" and was "fastidious about anything that was built for him."

In the early 1980s, he took in partners and opened shops in Towson and Woodlawn. He called the expansion idea a "Jewish McDonald's." He was also described as "the Colonel Sanders of corned beef."

"Jack himself was puttering around like a mother hen with a big cigar in his mouth," a Sun columnist wrote of a 1982 visit to Lombard Street, "checking the cash registers, bantering with the customers, flirting with the cashiers, joking with a delivery man, telling his life story to a nosy visitor and racing to his back room every couple of minutes to phone the managers of his two new suburban subsidiary delis, and to check with his stockbrokers."

About 22 years ago, Mr. Goldenson retired and moved to Scottsdale. He sold his business to investors who operated it for several years.

Services were held Friday in Arizona.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife, the former Marguerite Rast; two sons, Sasha Goldenson and Mark Goldenson, both of Scottsdale; and two grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Tillie Berman ended in divorce.

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