Ed Finman oral history interview 1, 2018 January 25
Ed Finman, the son of Leo Finman who owned locally renowned Leo's Delicatessen, which was located at 1503 Elizabeth Avenue in Charlotte North Carolina between 1950 and 1968, discusses his family history and the history of the business in this first of two interviews. Mr. Finman describes how his ancestors immigrated to the United States from Lithuania to escape genocide around the turn of the Twentieth Century and how they settled initially in Hartford Connecticut before moving South to begin a new venture. He relates how his grandparents moved to Ybor City, Florida, where they opened Finman's Kosher Market, and how his father eventually relocated to Charlotte to open his own delicatessen at the behest of Leo Gottheimer, his mother's uncle, who owned a farm in Mecklenburg County. Leo's Delicatessen originally opened in 1948 at Morehead Street and Kings Drive and was located in the right side of the Center Theater building, but the location was inadequate and the business moved to Elizabeth Avenue within two years. Mr. Finman describes in detail the layout of the delicatessen, including the arrangement of different foods and beverages throughout the shop, the seating, the cooking facilities, and the general lively ambiance. He also discusses the supply of foods, some of which were shipped in from New York City, Brooklyn, Chicago, Baltimore, and Cincinnati. He recalls that the customers represented a cross section of Charlotte society, including medical staff from the nearby Presbyterian and Mercy hospitals and nuns from Mercy Hospital, leading local business people, lawyers, political leaders, and many prominent members of the Charlotte community. In addition, some customers travelled from as far away as the Appalachian Mountains to stock up on particular foods. In contrast to his grandfather's deli in Ybor City, Leo's Delicatessen attracted mostly non-Jewish people, reflecting the small Jewish population in Charlotte at the time. Mr. Finman also recalls people who worked for his parents at the delicatessen, including George Phifer Jr., an African American employee who was Leo's right hand man in the deli as well as being a close companion to Ed Finman himself, and whose family farmed land in the UNC Charlotte area. In addition he reflects on his mother, "Mama Leo" (Helen), detailing her family background, her central role in the delicatessen, and Leo and Helen Finman's overgenerous style of running the business. Other topics discussed include subsequent owners of the business, other local business suppliers, and Leo Finman's ill health that resulted from his work.