Russ & Daughters regulars know to take a number immediately upon entering the store. That ticket is the order imposed on what could otherwise become, very quickly, a chaotic mass of hungry and demanding customers. The ticket promises a multi-sensory experience—not just the sight of the fish, bagels, dried fruit, babka, and halvah, but the briny, smoky smells one inhales even before any food hits the tongue. The ticket also opens the door to conversation and community.
Most archives focus on paper as a form of transmission: AJHS alone has 30 million pages of documents. But a store, led by four overlapping generations of a family, is also a vessel of history, capturing century-old practices. The Russ family members relay stories of herring sellers and customers for more than a century. Knowing how to slice lox thin is important; just as important is knowing when to innovate, what to preserve, and staying attuned to customers past, present and future.