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Sons and Daughters

Ernie Holsendolph '58
Robert M. Rosencrans   '49
James P. Rubin '82

No More Joy on Broadway
By Alex Sachare


“Roast beef hero with lettuce, tomato, salt, pepper and lots of Russian dressing.”

That was my sandwich of choice at Mama Joy’s, which became a part of Columbia and Morningside history on April 30 when it closed its doors for the last time. Its passing did not go unnoticed.

It was the lead news story in the April 26 edition of Spectator, as well as the topic of that issue’s main editorial which concluded, “Within the walls of Mama Joy’s is a long history that includes virtually all of us and our friends, and in many cases, generations of Columbians.”

When I first revisited Mama Joy’s a couple of years ago, 27 summers after my graduation, I noticed some changes but felt a welcome familiarity. The aisles were more cramped, to be sure, and there were more upscale products than I remembered. The lone cashier had been replaced by tollbooth-like rows of checkout counters. But the roast beef sandwich was still the best, and watching the sandwich-makers while waiting on line remained one of the better shows on Broadway.

“After 46 years in the community, I have decided to take time out to smell the flowers,” Herbert Estrin wrote in a letter that was posted in the window of Mama Joy’s and reprinted in an ad in Spectator. “I, as well as my daughter Maritza, cannot express enough our gratitude to all of you who have supported us through the years. If Mama Joy’s (my mother, Lillian Estrin) was still alive she would want me to thank each and everyone of you for loving her as much as she had loved all of you.”

Estrin, whose commendable service to the community includes the endowment of several College scholarships for underprivileged students from the city, often may still be found at the University Food Market, in which he has an interest. And while the sandwiches there are good, they are not quite as good, and the experience is not the same.

I’m glad I juggled my schedule so I could order one last “roast beef hero with lettuce, tomato, salt, pepper and lots of Russian dressing.” It was the best sandwich I’ve had in years, and one I won’t forget.


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