Lost Tables | Remembering Kopperman’s

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HARLEY HAMMERMAN, SPECIAL FOR THE JEWISH LIGHT

Ever wondered what happened to that restaurant you once loved and have memories of dining with your family and friends? We did! There is an amazing website called Lost Tables, dedicated to celebrating the restaurants of our past. We are partnering with the site’s creator Harley Hammerman and celebrating these wonderful stories. Hammerman and his wife Marlene are members of Shaare Emeth, and she is past president of the National Council of Jewish Women of St. Louis.  Visit Lost Tables on Facebook


Max Kopperman was born in 1866 in Jedwabne, Poland. He arrived in St. Louis in 1896, and the following year opened a small kosher meat market at 916 North 7th Street.

In 1917, Kopperman moved his growing business to 1121 Franklin Avenue, just east of 12th Street. The new location was initially known as the House of Kopperman, eventually changing to M. Kopperman Fresh Meats, then to M. Kopperman & Sons, and finally to Kopperman Brothers Delicatessen.

Initially, Kopperman leased the space at 1121 Franklin Avenue for $75 a month. In 1923, he purchased the building for $23,000 and, as the business grew, took over the adjacent 1117 space. The basement and first floor were used for food preparation, as well as his burgeoning retail and wholesale operation. Kopperman and his wife Jennie lived with their family on the second floor, above their business. Sons Gus, Jacob, Isadore and Henry and daughters Sarah, Anna, Celia and Bertha made it unnecessary to hire clerks.

In 1934, Kopperman’s got a new neighbor when the St. Louis Globe-Democrat moved its headquarters to a new building at Franklin and 12th Street. With the Globe to its immediate west, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch 6 blocks south and the St. Louis Star-Times putting up a new building a block away in 1938, Kopperman’s became the go-to place for hungry reporters, printers and other newspaper employees.

Kopperman’s customers also included radio personalities and staffers from KWK, KWGD, KXOK and KSD, all within walking distance, and guests from nearby hotels, all flocking to Kopperman’s for kosher sandwiches.

Kopperman’s was not the only kosher delicatessen in the neighborhood. One of its competitors was Dunie’s, originally opened in 1912 on Franklin at 12th by brothers Nathan and Harry Dunie. Dunie’s later moved to 12th and Delmar, in the Hotel McKinley, and then to 13th and Delmar, where it remained open until 1990.

Max Kopperman died in 1939 at the age of seventy. His widow Jennie and his four sons Gus, Jacob, Isadore and Henry continued to run the kosher market at 1121 Franklin into the late 1960s. But as families and businesses moved away from the area, so did customers. Henry’s son Myron was offered the business, but he declined. So in February of 1969, the Kopperman brothers retired and sold the building their father had moved to in 1917. The building was razed for parking later that same year.

While Myron Kopperman had turned down the offer to take over his family’s Franklin Avenue deli, he still had the business in his blood. He had worked at the deli since he was 6 years old, when his job had been to open soda bottles, pack pickles and clean fish.

In December of 1983, Kopperman and his friend Sanford Rich opened a different kind of delicatessen at 386 North Euclid in the Central West End. In addition to the deli food offered by Kopperman’s father and grandfather, they offered a larger, more diverse menu, and combined this with an eclectic specialty market. Kopperman and Rich called their new venture “Kopperman’s Specialty Food & Delicatessen” with the tagline “Taste A Bit of The World.”

The customers who had frequented the strictly kosher deli on Franklin Avenue would have been aghast at the sight of baby back ribs, sausage jambalaya and boiled shrimp sharing space with lox and bagels, chopped liver and kosher tongue at the delicatessen on Euclid.

Crammed into Kopperman’s 1,900 square feet of floor space was seating for 38 people, a 36-foot produce case, 36 feet of wine shelving and a 28-foot deli and specialty foods case. Adjacent to the food case was a three-door freezer stocked with homemade soups and Quezel ice cream. A larger cooler was filled with cakes and fruit pies.

To read the rest of Harley’s story about Kopperman’s, visit his website, Lost Tables.