Herman Vargas



Herman Vargas,

General Manager


How old were you when you started here?

I was 18 years old. I started in the kitchen and now I’m the General Manager. I’ve been here almost 27 years.


How did you get the title of Herman

“The Artistic Slicer” Vargas?

Because I was so young when I started working behind the counter, I knew that I needed to prove myself by gaining excellent knife skills. Once I was able to slice so thinly that you could read The New York Times through it, I began calling myself “The Artistic Slicer.” When Calvin Trillin wrote, Tepper Isn’t Going Out, he made me a character in the book. I’m now immortalized as Herman the Artistic Slicer.


What’s your favorite thing about

Russ & Daughters?

Being able to share the history of Russ & Daughters and the history of the Lower East Side, who we are, what we do and why we love it.


What are some of the memorable events or moments that you’ve been a part of through Russ & Daughters?

One of the last wishes of a terminally ill customer named Moe was to come to Russ & Daughters one last time. Moe’s family and nurse all escorted him here. I had the privilege of helping Moe and giving him this farewell experience. It was one of the saddest, and yet, most memorable moments. It reminded me that we do more than sell smoked fish.


What does the store mean to you?  

Half of my youth and most of my middle age. In other words, it’s been three-quarters of my life.


What are some other favorite spots on the Lower East Side?

There used to be Schmulka Bernstein, a Kosher Chinese restaurant on Essex where you could hear Chinese waiters speaking Yiddish. Schowsky was a take-out place where you could get corned beef, pastrami, turkey and roasted chicken by the pound. Unfortunately, because of the development of the neighborhood, these places are gone.