Mark Russ Federman


Mark Russ Federman,
Third Generation Russ


You left a career as a successful lawyer to take over the family business? Why did you decide to leave Lex for lox?
I wasn’t satisfied being a trial lawyer. At the time, my parents were not in good health and were thinking of selling the business. I looked around and realized that this business had real value; I thought what we did was important.  I assumed that I could practice law and run Russ & Daughters at the same time. The first day I came in to the business was the last day I practiced law.

What’s your favorite thing about Russ & Daughters?
It’s a special kind of place in New York that allows people to come and have a unique experience. And this is the kind of food that people are emotional about. There’s comedy; there’s drama. It’s a universe that I like and am comfortable in.

What’s your favorite food here?
One of the perks of owning this business is getting to eat what you want, when you want. As part of my job I get to eat a lot of the world's best caviar, but sometimes I just want to eat a piece of herring.

Tell us about a memorable moment

at Russ & Daughters.
A mother and her children came into the shop one day. I had known them for years. They informed me that their husband/father had passed away. One of his last wishes was to be buried underneath Russ & Daughters. Thinking that they were joking I said that I was a Russ and even I couldn’t get buried there! But they weren’t joking. They spoke with tears in their eyes. We ended up laughing and crying together.  

If you were to record typical soundbites from Russ & Daughters what would you hear?
Question: "You sure you only want an 1/8 of a pound?"

Answer: "What am I making, a wedding?"

"Hey, Boychick!"

"Make sure it’s fatty! It should be a nice one."

"What’d you do with the kapchunka?"

"Now, what is a kapchunka?"
Where were you born on the Lower East Side?
I was born on the second floor of a two story tenement warehouse owned by Yarvakovsky Paper Goods. There was a dentist office in the front and an apartment in the back. Recently it was razed and will be a twenty story boutique hotel. I’m still waiting for a plaque on the wall: “Mark Russ Federman was born here.”

What are you working on these days

now that the fourth generation is running

the operation?
I’m writing myself out of my business. I’m working on a book. It’s a memoir about an immigrant family that started a small business on the Lower East Side and one hundred years later still has a small business on the Lower East Side. The working title is The House That Herring Built.