Feltman’s Giant Restaurant, The Forerunner of Nathan’s Coney Island
A brief description of Feltman’s from The New York Hotel Record July 9, 1912:
The Magnitude of Feltman’s Garden Coney Island New York
One of the largest and most unique restaurants and cafés in this country is Feltman’s at Coney Island New York was established in 1873 (ed. – actually 1871) with six employees and it now has a pay roll of more thirteen hundred names.
One of the striking features of this place is the fact Feltman’s does not depend on the city any service whatever. It has its own and police patrol, its own street department, its own electric light plant and its own water supply from wells. This establishment has five separate and fully equipped kitchens each presided over by a specialist.
The building is on a plot of ground 260 by 1,830 feet It has 17,000 electric lights and has fed as many as 21,000 people in one day.
The staff of Feltman’s is Charles L. and Alfred Feltman proprietors; James F. Sherwood, fifteen seasons manager and Joseph Stafford headwaiter. There are thirty one captains who control six hundred and forty waiters as well as two hundred busses.
Feltman’s A Short History
Feltman’s Deutscher Garden located at 1000 Surf Avenue was an immense concession with multiple buildings. 200 feet of the property fronted Surf Avenue between West 10th Street and Jones Walk. Feltman’s stretched around 700 feet all the way to the boardwalk. Apocryphally, Feltman’s invented the modern American hot dog with their special spiced sausage in a bun. They were charging a dime for the delicacy in the 1910s.
Working at Feltman’s in 1915 as a bread bun slicer was a Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker. In 1916 the twenty-four-year-old Handwerker and his wife Ida opened their own restaurant just down the block from Feltman’s with $300 savings.
A legendary restaurant was born: Nathan’s Hot Dogs. Handwerker attracted customers by undercutting his former employer, charging just a nickel for a frankfurter. Nathan’s continues to flourish to this day.
The Feltman family sold their business and property in 1946 to a group operating under the name Feltman’s of Coney Island, Inc.
Owing money to suppliers, defaulting on city taxes and missing its December mortgage payment, the owners led by Alvin E. Kallman shut down Feltman’s Restaurant in January 1954.
The following month with the owners of the land and buildings still in debt, a savior for Feltman’s Restaurant appeared.
Charles A, Feltman, grandson of founder Charles Feltman. decided to lease the restaurant and satisfied some of the debts.
But it was too late for a recovery. On June 1, 1954 the property was sold at a foreclosure auction for $490,000 to Dewey Albert, a realtor and Sidney Robins, an attorney. After Charles A. Feltman’s lease on the restaurant expired in September, Feltman’s closed permanently and another New York institution was gone forever.