After 50 years in business, owner Norman Rappaport prides himself on keeping his kosher deli afloat when so many other eateries in the Five Towns have gone out of business, especially during these tough economic times.
“I think I’m a good businessman, because I kept my business going when so many others have closed down over the years,” he said. “The rest of the old places from around here are almost all gone.”
The perennial favorite, located in the Peninsula Shopping Center in Hewlett, has certainly stood the test of time due to its old-fashioned charm and menu, according to Rappaport.
Rappaport said that the store’s biggest seller has always been its meats — turkey, roast beef, corn beef, pastrami and more. All of it is cooked on premises and contains no phosphates or other chemicals — additives that Rappaport said are all too common in other restaurants.
Another big draw is the restaurant’s popular take-out business, catering services, party room and affordable daily specials.
“Our lunch specials are very popular. It’s a great deal,” he said. “The wait staff is great, and they really give our customers terrific service.”
But there’s plenty more to this deli than sandwiches. Knishes, soups, salads, potato pancakes, chopped liver and hot entrees are just a few of the Jewish-style foods featured on the menu.
Manhattan businessman hits the Five Towns
Rappaport was already a seasoned restaurateur when he bought Woodro, which had already been up and running for about five years.
“I owned another sit-down deli in the city before I bought this place,” he said. “But at the time, I lived in Huntington, and I wanted something closer to home. I really liked the Five Towns, and to be honest, this was only large place available at that time. Also, this location has a great big parking lot, which is so much easier and cheaper than dealing with a car in the city.”
His father, who was in the food service business as well, along with his mother, helped him get settled for the first few months. Many years ago, his three daughters used to help out as well, putting together meat platters for several hours a day.
Over the years, Rappaport took in a couple of partners, which has proved to be a big help, since he now lives upstate and is only in the area three to four days a week.
Things are tough all over
Rappaport said that business isn’t as good it was in the deli’s heyday because of the economy.
“People can’t afford to eat out as often as they used to,” he said. “Every time you eat out it’s $50 or $60. But the prices here are really reasonable for the quality you get. Do you want to go to a fancy place with crumby food, or do you want to go to a place that isn’t so fancy, but you’ll get a great meal? I’d rather go where I can get a good, delicious meal.”
But despite a slight dip in business, many loyal customers continue to flock to Woodro, especially the older crowd. Many of them come in during the week for the “card player special,” where they can order a complete lunch off a special menu for about $13. They can talk, eat and play until 4:30 p.m.
50 years and counting
Not only are the customers loyal, much of the staff have been there for years too, including a woman who has been working at Woodro since Rappaport’s takeover, and her daughter, who came aboard later on.
Longtime employee Laurie Weigel credits Rappaport as being one of the key reasons for the restaurant’s longevity.
“He’s hardworking, honest, ambitious and creative — everything you could want in a successful businessman,” said Weigel, whose son Jared also works at Woodro. “He’s also very generous. Whether it’s an employee or a customer, you can really count on him when you need something.”