Newark icon, owner of Hobby's Deli, Sam Brummer dies at 93

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on November 16, 2015

Samuel Brummer with the 29th Infantry Division landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Photographed with a picture of himself taken during the war at his home in North Caldwell. 5/27/14

 

NEWARK — The corner of Branford and Halsey will never be the same. Samuel Brummer, the longtime owner of Hobby's Deli and a much-loved figure in the city, died Sunday. He was 93.

Brummer, a Polish immigrant who moved to Newark in the 1930s and fought in World War II before taking over the famed eatery in 1962, died at his North Caldwell home Sunday after battling heart problems and other health issues, family members said.

"He lived the American Dream," Marc Brummer, who runs Hobby's with his brother, Michael, said of their father in a phone interview Monday.

"He built a life here, and a business here, and a family here. He watched his kids and his grandkids grow up...and he never took any of it for granted."

Though he spent much of the morning fielding a seemingly endless string of phone calls from friends and customers expressing condolences, Michael Brummer was at Hobby's Monday.

"Dad would have wanted the place open," he said. "I'm here with him. I'm working in his place."

Hobby's, the Brummer family says, has been a family-run institution in the city since Sam and his wife, Rona, bought it 53 years ago. Under Sam's leadership, family members said the lines between friends and customers blurred.

"As tough of a businessman as he was, he had a very kind and gentle heart," Marc Brummer said. "If someone came in hungry, they didn't leave that way."

At a ceremony last year renaming the corner of Branford Place and Halsey Street, "Hobby's Plaza," local officials spoke of one of Sam's first moves after taking over the deli. Soon after he started, Sam noticed that the wait staff had a certain sign they used to signal that a black customer had walked through the door. He immediately abolished the practice, and established Hobby's as a welcoming place open to all.

The anti-Semitism that Brummer faced growing up in Poland was part of what inspired his welcoming way, his son Marc said.

"He had suffered as a Jew, and he wasn't going to let that happen to anyone else," Marc said. "Everyone was welcome and everyone was treated with dignity. That's one of the many legacies my father passed on to me and my brother."

In recent years, Brummer was honored as a World War II veteran who took part in the D-Day invasion in Normandy. In 2006, he received a Bronze Star for his service during a ceremony at Hobby's, and in 2009, the French awarded him a Legion of Honor medal.

Despite what his sons called a long and complicated history as a refugee from Poland and a war hero, Brummer will likely be most remembered for the impact he had on the Newark community.

"Newark was always very good to my father," Michael Brummer said Monday. "To us, Hobby's is Newark."

Sam has said felt the same way.

"I went through thick and thin with Newark, but I never left it," Sam said in an interview with NJ Advance Media last year.

"It is a great city."

Sam Brummer's funeral will take place at Temple Sholom of West Essex in Cedar Grove at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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