By Salo Zelermyer
“Where’s home for you?”
Twelve years ago answering that simple question suddenly became more difficult as I packed my childhood into a series of boxes and said goodbye to the house I grew up in. For some people, that act is the last breaking point with where they grew up. For me, having married a West Hartford
girl, the last 12 years have continued bringing me back to town and, on each trip back, there has always been one stop that I knew meant I was home again — The Crown.
Walking inside invariably brought a rush of old friends still around and memories of those who have long since gone. On my last trip home, I stood at the deli counter with my kids, as my Mom used to do with me, juggling the process of ordering tuna salad and corned beef, while greeting several people and trying not to annoy the lady with the number after mine. We returned to my in-laws’ home — and the same lunch array of “5 O’clock Shop” items I’ve always feasted on over the years. At last, I knew I was home.
So, it was a punch to the gut this week when news reached me that the Crown would be closing in a matter of weeks. Word spread quickly across Facebook and over text, as if an old friend had tragically passed away well before their time.
Why was this such a shock? After all, even growing up, the Crown had to fight its way through difficult times, increased competition, the inevitable kashrut arguments, etc. Now, with Whole Foods, Big Y, and Trader Joe’s all carrying kosher meat and driving down prices, was it really surprising that another independent store just couldn’t keep up? As some folks said to me this week, it’s a business, it’s not personal.
But isn’t it?
Maybe the answer lies in the question: where is home for you? For Jews, home and food are inextricably linked. When I think of my grandmother’s house, I think of her apple pies, chocolate chip cookies and brisket. When I think of my house in West Hartford, I think of endless Shabbat lunches, chewing over the day’s events. Every year, our holidays revolve around shopping and cooking and eating (or not eating) and, accordingly, on every holiday, the fact that our community had the Crown meant something.
Not having it any longer means something, too. It means our home is one step closer to being the same as every other suburb — a Whole Foods, a Cheesecake Factory, and a whole bunch of places where not everybody knows your name.
My friends and I have long played a game of trading names back and forth of closed Hartford-area stores. G-Fox, Val’s, Service Merchandise… Are we really ready to add the Crown to that list? Somehow, I wish we could put our communal foot down and say “No.”
Is it possible to find a solution? I don’t know the answer. As a card-carrying capitalist, I’m predisposed against bailouts. If the Crown can be saved, it should only be saved with an owner in place who is invested long-term in the community and has a sustainable plan for future solvency. I do know there are a lot of very capable and fine leaders in the Hartford-area Jewish community. And I do know (hope?) there is still a constituency in West Hartford that knows a place like the Crown is unique and worth investing in.
So, from an ex-pat to my home community, I say: Save the Crown. Save our home.
Salo Zelermyer and his wife Lisa (Fierer) Zelermyer grew up in West Hartford and now live in Silver Spring, Md., with their children, Joshua and Noa. He is currently a senior counsel at Bracewell & Giuliani, LLP in Washington, D.C.