It takes chutzpah to uproot your life and start a business in a foreign country. Where would you start? Joel Russ started with mushrooms. Peddling fungi on New York City’s Lower East Side evolved into the legendary Russ and Daughters store. The Houston Street store, now managed by the fourth generation of the family, serves acclaimed “appetizing”— lox, pickled herring, smoked salmon, caviar and other delicacies. We always encourage hunters to stop in for a nosh on our Pastrami & Wry Scavenger Hunt, one of our hunts that feature Jewish culture and history.
Joel Russ immigrated to America in 1907 and began selling Polish Mushrooms on the Lower East Side. With enough money saved, he purchased a pushcart and added pickled herring to his inventory. When demand outgrew the pushcart in 1914, he literally opened shop: J. Russ International Appetizers.
Life was good for Russ—he had a loving wife and three daughters along with a booming business, especially as the increasing population of Jewish immigrants longed for a taste of the old country. Russ’ daughters began working the family business as young as age eight, coming straight from school.
Rise of the “Sturgeon Queens”
During the Great Depression Russ moved his family to cramped quarters on East 4th Street and renamed J. Russ International Appetizers to Russ & Daughters. After Russ passed away in 1961, his daughters carried on.
The store’s centennial will be marked by a documentary, The Sturgeon Queens, starring 100-year-old Hattie Russ Gold and 92-year-old Anne Russ Federman, two of the three famed daughters.
Of course Russ & Daughters is not the only Jewish eatery on our Lower East Side scavenger hunts. You’ll also discover the legendary Katz’s Delicatessen, the mountains of sweets in Economy Candy, the shops new and old in the Essex Street Market, and Kossar’s Bialys, to name just a few highlights.
But our celebrations of Jewish culture and history don’t stop at Houston Street. Synagogues, Jewish student groups, and families celebrating Bar/Bat Mitzvahs have enjoyed a variety of hunts in locations across the U.S. The new Jewish Grab ’n’ Go Scavenger Hunt can be played anywhere. Contact us to find out what we can do for your group. L’shanah tovah tikatevu!