After 28 years of feeding and entertaining customers from across the city and around the world, the duo behind a beloved Sheepshead Bay mainstay — Jay & Lloyd’s Kosher Deli & Family Restaurant — have closed their doors as the pair packs up their wealth of memories on Avenue U.
“There are probably 100 stories, I can’t say how many stories there are,” said co-owner Lloyd Lederman. “I keep looking back and there were only good times — it’s what’s helping me get through this.”
Lederman and his partner Jay Stern have known each other since they were kids growing up in Mill Basin, but it was their personalities and passion for food that led them to become business partners, Lederman said.
“We’ve known each other since we were four years old,” Lederman said. “He’s funny. We’ve got the same silly personality — a Jewish sense of humor. We’re a couple of mensches.”
They first began their southern Brooklyn venture in 1993, when the area was predominantly Jewish and devoid of its own Kosher deli — which, Lederman said, were quite popular in that decade.
“People were waiting to see a Kosher deli open,” he said. “So I put a big sign out, ‘Kosher Deli,’ because, who knew Jay and Lloyd?”
But it wasn’t long until people did.
The restaurant took off right away and people were eating up the homemade recipes passed down to Lederman, a third-generation deli man, from his father and grandfather.
“It was no time before I was open until 1 to 2 in the morning. We couldn’t close, it was just so busy,” Lederman said. “It was an immediate start to business.”
His special heart-shaped pickles and pastrami sandwiches quickly emerged as staples in the community and the restaurant became a go-to spot on many local food tours.
“My food is my love, it’s my heart,” Lederman said. “And people would say ‘you know what? We know that.’”
Patrons came from far and wide to visit Jay & Lloyd’s on their trips to New York City. Upon news of their closing on social media, farewell wishes poured in from all around the world.
“Whether they were from England or Malta, or wherever they were from,” Lederman said, “they’d say, ‘we will always remember you.’”
The deli’s list of clientele even includes one of the most recognizable names in the food industry — the late chef and food writer Anthony Bourdain. The food guru featured Jay & Lloyd’s on the final episode of his series “No Reservations,” and was sure to order some of their homemade kosher specialties to take home to his family.
“We were on the last show, it was the last thing he ate, it was the last scene,” Lederman said. “Not only did he eat, but he came to the counter and got food for the crew, of course, but also paid personally to take home our food for his family.”
Not only was their food unmatched, but the eatery also doubled as a community hangout spot, where neighbors could always stop by to hear one of Jay or Lloyd’s infamous jokes.
“New customers, they just kept coming back, because we were fun, I’m sorry to say it,” Lederman said. “We told jokes, Jay was always telling a joke, we made people forget and laugh.”
Lederman and Stern announced their decision to close the restaurant in a May 27 Facebook post, and Lederman told Brooklyn Paper that the ongoing pandemic and the decreasing popularity of kosher delis across the country left them with little choice.
“To all of our family and customers, we’re sorry to say that Jay and Lloyd‘s are officially out of business. We’re sorry and we will miss you,” Stern wrote. “We thank you for the years, that’s 28 of them, that you have all helped us. We thank you so much.”
Since the closure, Lederman is spending his days enjoying his backyard oasis in Rockaway Beach — a space he had rarely found time for before aside from upkeep.
“I spent years building it and I never really got to sit and enjoy it,” Lederman said. “Now, I have been back there every day and have social distance cocktail hour with my neighbor.”
However, the deli man suspects he may return to business in the next couple of years, though at a smaller scale.
For now, he bids farewell to all of his beloved customers over his nearly three-decade span in Sheepshead Bay.
“Happy pickles,” Lederman said.