May 2020 Ruminations & Ronnifications

I am hoping:

that the better part of the Corona virus is behind us so that we can begin anew;

that most if not all of our employees will be back working sooner rather than later;

that families enjoyed the best of each other if they were lucky enough to stay at home but if they weren’t, they were able to face time with their families as we did with our grandchildren;

that those individuals who were not at home with their families –– but on the front lines –– know how appreciative we all are for their service;

that all those who have a 401k plan or other retirement plan dependent on the vagaries of the stock market see an upward movement in their account;

that all our vendors emerge from this devastating blow to our economy;

that we see many more smiles and the playful bantering that typically is part of the genuine kosher deli experience when we reopen fully;

that the pages devoted to the obituaries lessen, and the New York Times marriage section becomes greater;

that everyone emerges with greater empathy for those who are incarcerated for nonviolent behavior;

And lastly, I am hoping that we never have to be a participant in another pandemic in our lifetimes, so that we don’t have to imagine a world without restaurants, without kosher delis.

Thank you to all our patrons for your past, present and future support. I am hoping.

With best regards,
Ronnie Dragoon
CEO/Founder

April 2020 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Here I am. In my home office. Answering customers questions, responding to Ben’s personnel, and issues that are specific to each Ben’s location.

I worked up until March 20th until I had no choice but to listen to my adult children who implored me to stay home because I am in my 70’s with an underlying medical condition. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have always felt leadership required me to be with the frontline workers; that was of course until  my daughter exclaimed, “you do want to see your grandchildren, don’t you?”  That was the wake-up call that landed me in my home office… and so here I remain… lonely, out of the thick of battle, and learning what retirement would mean for me — a person who no longer plays competitive sports but does like to read, think, analyze and solve problems.

My spouse is not too fond of this incarceration as well, and that was even before my failed attempt at using all the rotting bananas to make banana bread (at least I liked it and at least I tried). For my wife, her life has been upended and unaccustomed to her husband being home all morning, day, and night. But I am sure we’ll survive this and Cindy and I will celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary this April.

When I wrote a few months back (in the February Blog) that I was going to take a step back, I didn’t realize how prescient it would be. For me, my life’s work hangs in the balance. And, of course, my heart  goes out to the workers at Ben’s; to the workers at other restaurants, and grocery stores; to all the Doctors, Nurses, Police Officers, Fire Fighters, Paramedics, postal workers and other first responders who do their very best to continue to take care of the public during this very scary moment in our history, an even greater thank you and appreciation. And, of course, for all those who lost their jobs and their incomes, a deep regret.

Hope to see you all in our dining rooms as soon as possible.  And may all our patrons and friends have as Happy a Passover and Easter as possible.

With best regards,
Ronnie Dragoon
CEO/Founder

Former Rep. Steve Israel, Ben’s Deli & United Way Launch “Chicken Soup For Healthcare Responders”

March 22, 2020

Former Rep. Steve Israel, Ben’s Deli and United Way of Long Island have announced a partnership to provide food to medical professionals in hospitals called “Chicken Soup for Health Care Responders”.

The idea occurred to Israel during his self quarantine, over a take out meal from Ben’s Deli. A family member, who is a doctor, told him that some hospital staff responding to the coronavirus were experiencing food shortages. Israel contacted Ben’s Deli owner Ronnie Dragoon and United Way of Long Island President and CEO Theresa Regnante, and they collaborated on “Chicken Soup for Health Care Responders”.

Here’s how it will work:

United Way has set up a unique CHICKEN SOUP FOR HEALTH CARE RESPONDERS link on their website, www.unitedwayli.org/givechickensoup. Donors can contribute any amount.

The funds will be used to pay for cold cut sandwiches, hot dogs, knishes and soups. The food will be packaged to avoid contamination. Ben’s will discount the food and waive its delivery fee.

Ben’s will deliver the food to hospitals in Nassau and Suffolk.

Rep. Israel said: “We know that there are critical shortages of personal protective equipment for medical professionals. Making sure they have food during their long shifts is easy to solve and we can do it right away. Chicken Soup for Health Care Responders will help achieve that goal. I’m so grateful to Ben’s Deli and United Way for being so responsive.”

Ronnie Dragoon said: “In these troubling times, helping to keep our health care first responders nourished is something we can do now. Todd Silverstein, Ben’s Vice President, will coordinate all deliveries to Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Todd can be reached at 516.621.3340 or on his cell phone, 516.769.7561.”

Theresa Regnante said: “The health care community is pivotal in this crisis and United Way of Long Island is honored to support former Congressman Israel’s plan to help the workforce.  This partnership is true to our mission, as it focuses on the health and welfare of Long Islanders.”

For further information, go to www.unitedwayli.org/givechickensoup.

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March 2020 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Thank you for your  warm and overwhelming response to my February blog. Forty-seven years ago I couldn’t have imagined it was possible to receive such an  outpouring of love and support. The admiration and kindness I’ve been receiving from new and longtime patrons,  and vendors, as well as present and former employees of Ben’s has been heartwarming.

It is gratifying  to hear this after all the years in business beginning with a formerly twice bankrupt kosher delicatessen restaurant in Baldwin on the south shore of Long Island in 1972. Reflecting on all these years, it amazes me how quickly time has passed and how interesting the journey has been….and continues to be .

Change is a constant and mandated by changing consumer tastes so it is not easy to walk away; there are still so many ideas,  plans and work to be done. And even as I take a step back, the management team will be working on a brand new plant based menu with vegan and vegetarian options. Very recently, our supervising chef and I worked with lentil pasta and this incredibly high protein pasta was delicious as well as gluten free which should make many of our patrons happy (and my wife Cindy who is a vegan).

At this point, I still come to work tasting and critiquing, prioritizing my work load and  learning how to delegate more. I  plan to continue to oversee and consult with       those from my current  management team, who have been assigned the task of carrying on this great tradition, a tradition borne out of the shtetls of Eastern Europe with the aim of keeping it alive well into the 21st century…. in spite of the hurdles and obstacles that face many businesses, especially those of us in the restaurant business.

Again, thank you to each and every one of you who  took the time to write , call or make a personal visit . Your support has always and continues to be an inspiration.

You have renewed my strength,  value and commitment and enabled me to-in many ways- re-define my workload as well as my definition of success.

So let’s raise our glasses and say, L’Chaim.

Humbly Yours,

Ronnie