Upon entering Michael Altman’s kosher butcher shop, children couldn’t wait to receive a slice of fresh homemade salami from the personable owner.
Altman opened Altman’s Meats at 17120 Chagrin Blvd. in Shaker Heights in the 1950s and relocated it to 2185 S. Green Road in University Heights in 1971 as the Orthodox population in Greater Cleveland migrated. He died June 2 at 91.
He ran the store for 37 years alongside his late wife, Edith, who made prepared foods that were popular with customers.
Tibor Rosenberg, owner of Tibor’s Kosher Meat Market, said he learned everything about the business from Altman, from whom he purchased the business in the 1980s. Altman first offered the business to his children. When they were not interested, he sold to Rosenberg.
“He was a good businessman, good worker and he had a vision how to do things,” Rosenberg said. “It’s because of him we have the store that we have.”
Rosenberg said Altman was “an expert on kosher” and “very proud” of giving children the salami.
Rosenberg began working for Altman in 1976. Rosenberg said Altman taught him “how to be honest in business,” and described him as a “good man all around.”
“Customers liked him,” Rosenberg said. “He was always good to his employees.”
When Altman began the business, there was plenty of competition.
“When I opened my first store at Chagrin and Avalon, over 40 years ago,” Altman told the Cleveland Jewish News in 1997, “there were 50 to 60 kosher butchers in the area. Now there are only three. We have a very loyal following. I was afraid to rock the boat, because I had built up a good business in Shaker Heights. But a friend advised me that the move and the timing were right. When we moved to Cedar-Green, it was as though the customers were waiting for me.”
“It’s wonderful to be with the customers all day,” Altman said in the same 1997 CJN interview. “After all these years, many of them are like family to me.”
Altman was born June 10, 1927 in Czechoslovakia. His mother and four of her 10 children were killed by the Nazis. Altman had two narrow escapes from the Nazis, the Cleveland Jewish News reported in 1971.
In the second of his escapes, from a camp in Slovakia, he posed as a gentile worker and managed to scrounge enough food to keep 10 people alive, some of them members of his own family, the CJN reported.
Altman followed a brother to the United States after World War II.
The funeral was June 2 and burial was in Petach Tikvah Cemetery in Israel.
Altman is survived by his children, Miki (Michael) Wieder of Beachwood and David (Leah Kasztl) Altman of New York.