A fulfilling life in food

A fulfilling life in food

Stuart Kahan of Ma’adan talks about leaving his business — sort of…

Stuart Kahan in his store, in front of a photo of him and his business partner, Yossi Markov, at the 2013 Sinai Schools dinner that honored them.
Stuart Kahan in his store, in front of a photo of him and his business partner, Yossi Markov, at the 2013 Sinai Schools dinner that honored them.

The food business is not easy.

People have different tastes and different expectations. Chicken that is delicious to one person might not be delicious to someone else. And palates aside, you also need a lot of patience. You need to be a good listener. You need to be consistent. You need to be agreeable. You need, well, you need a lot of things, including plain old-fashioned luck.

In a world where things open and close as quickly as technology changes, Ma’adan, the takeout establishment on Cedar Lane in Teaneck, has managed to keep its doors open, selling delicious food and a great selection of wine, with its good reputation intact, since 1982.

Ma’adan’s story begins in the 1970s when a young Stuart Kahan started working at the Ocean Breeze Hotel in Seagate, a Brooklyn neighborhood. He loved all aspects of working there and was bitten by the food service industry bug. “I continued working there on weekends and holidays until I was 22, even after I started a jewelry-manufacturing company when I was 18,” Mr. Kahan said. “At one point I was working at the hotel, going to Brooklyn College, traveling for my jewelry business, and working some evenings at different catering halls.

“I loved working in all aspects of the food business and I couldn’t pull myself away from it.”

When he tried to decide exactly what he wanted to do, first he thought of going into the bagel game because he had an uncle who had a bagel-baking business, but then he decided that takeout was going to be his story. While he was visiting a friend at an auto body shop in Brooklyn, he ran into a guy he had known since second grade. It was Yossi Markovic, a friend whom he hadn’t seen in at least a year.

“He was standing against the wall, with one foot on the wall,” Mr. Kahan said. “We started talking, and I told him that I would like to open a takeout store. He wasn’t happy doing what he was doing, so I asked him if he would be interested in a partnership. He said he would be interested, and if anything comes up, to keep him in mind.”

After researching different communities, from Tenafly to Queens, one of Mr. Kahan’s cousins told him about Teaneck. “There was only Jerusalem Pizza and a bakery that was opened on Shabbos,” Mr. Kahan remembered. After looking at several locations, he took over the lease at a crystal store on Cedar Lane. That store now houses Sababa. And as fate would have it, “Fast forward one year almost to the day — I stopped by my friend’s auto shop in Brooklyn, and who do you think was standing against the same wall with his foot up on the wall? Yossi.

“I told him that I just found this location in Teaneck, New Jersey, and I wanted to open a takeout store because they really could use one. You interested?” Though Mr. Markovic had never even heard of Teaneck, his response was a definite “Yes.”

That was 1982.

The two men had little experience running their own food establishment, so they approached George Gross, who was the owner of Negev, a well-known takeout store in Brooklyn. According to Mr. Kahan, “We said we would work for free just to get the experience.”

So they did.

With experience from Negev and recipes from both the Ocean Breeze Hotel and Armon Terrace, a catering hall in Boro Park, Mr. Kahan and Mr. Markovic were ready to embark on a culinary adventure that has brought them to the present.

Mr. Kahan has accumulated many stories during his time as Ma’adan’s owner, but one in particular came to mind. “Cell phones had just come out,” he said. “They were these huge boxes attached to batteries.

“We were driving to a job in Rutherford, and we heard a ringing and didn’t realize where it was coming from. When we realized it was from this new cell phone, we didn’t even know who would have our number because we didn’t even know what it was!”

Boy, have times changed.

And now Mr. Kahan and Mr. Markovic, who also lives in Teaneck, are ready for their next adventure. They plan to sell their store — but not to just anyone. “We want the person who buys it to continue with the level of service and quality that we have tried our best to maintain for all of these years,” Mr. Kahan said. Ma’adan prides itself on the freshness of its food. “We make everything from scratch and cook without chemicals, which contributes to the taste and freshness of our food.

“After 35 of the best years of our lives, Yossi and I felt that now would be a good time to start looking for buyers,” he continued. “Ma’adan is busier than ever and the growth potential is great, but we didn’t want to wait until we are 65 or 70 to start the process.”

And who can take over their legacy? “We won’t sell to just anyone,” he said. “They have to be nice, knowledgeable in the food business, and have passion and fire in them. I would like to stay on with the new owners for a few years during the transition.” But not more than five years, he added.

“Yossi and I will do everything possible to ensure the continued success of Ma’adan for the new owners, for many years to come,” Mr. Kahan said.

“I’ve known Stuart and Yossi since the day they opened,” Jamie Janoff, the Jewish Standard’s publisher, said. “I actually worked summers at the Teaneck Delicatessen, which preceded Ma’adan at the same location.

The advertisement for the sale of Ma’adan in Teaneck appearing in the June 23 issue of the Jewish Standard.
The advertisement for the sale of Ma’adan in Teaneck appearing in the June 23 issue of the Jewish Standard.

“Yep, that Friedberg Properties advertisement announcing the sale of Ma’adan sure has created a buzz in our community,” he continued. “I’ve received some interesting phone calls and some creative emails. One of them said, ‘Sure, why don’t you buy Ma’adan and add a catering division to your publishing company? How difficult can it be to make turkey sandwiches? Your employees can diversify their duties.’ Another caller suggested Federation buy it. They spend enough on catering in the course of the year. Time for them to think outside the box.”

Mr. Kahan said that he’s gotten a range of reactions to the news that he is planning to sell Ma’adan. “Some people are sad, some are shocked, some are frantic, not knowing what they will do for good food for Shabbos, events, holidays, and oh no … Pesach.” But he wants to assure his customers that all will be good.

“I try to reassure them that I’ll be here for a while, and they’ll be able to buy the same high quality food from nice people and the same great staff,” he said. “I want to stay on not only for the transition period, but I just love the business and the customers are more then just customers. They’re like family and good friends.

“We want to thank God for always being with us, and leading Yossi and me in the right direction. “

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