Mort Shatzkin

Memories of growing up in Coney Island and the family business, Shatzkin's Famous Knishes

Mort Shatzkin’s family owned one of Coney Island’s most beloved eateries, Shatzkin’s Famous Knishes. They operated stores at various locations in Coney Island from the 1940s through the 1970s, and Shatzkin's Coney Island Knishes at Kings Plaza Shopping center in the 1980s. Shatzkin says his grandmother Anna was a very good cook who launched the business selling knishes from a wagon and that their first store was on 32d Street and Surf Avenue.

Born in 1938, Shatzkin shares memories of growing up in a middle class Jewish household, where a set of encyclopedia and a set of books by classic authors instilled an interest in reading and history. “You had a lot of freedom growing up as a youngster in Coney Island,” he says. From boyhood, he was paid an hourly wage for working at the knish stores and always had spending money. He describes making the traditional potato and kasha knishes, which were fried, and the volume of business on fireworks nights in the 1940s and ‘50s. Their popular cheese knishes were baked and made by a baker, he says.

Shatzkin graduated from Brooklyn Law School and became an attorney, moving to Los Angeles in 1965. “After my father retired, and my uncle and his brother retired, my brother and my cousin, who was my uncle’s oldest son, took over the business,” he recalls. “And they stayed in the business until my brother retired.”