After 26 years on East Baltimore’s famed Corned Beef Row, Lenny’s Delicatessen will discontinue operations at 1150 E. Lombard St., tentatively this Saturday.

Helping Up Mission, located nearby at 1029 E. Baltimore St., will temporarily take over the lease of the 15,000-square-foot facility, which was previously Jack’s Corned Beef of Lombard Street.

Since 2008, the property has been owned by the nearby Jewish Museum of Maryland, which also owns the land occupied by the historic Lloyd Street and B’nai Israel synagogues on the JMM compound.

“It’s been great to have Lenny’s as a tenant all these years, but this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to move forward,” said Marvin D. Pinkert, the JMM’s executive director.

Pinkert said the mission will use the building as a kitchen facility for the rest of this year. He said the museum’s board will explore different options regarding future plans for the property, which could include rehabbing or replacing the structure.

He said Lenny’s had about two more years on its lease, but informed the JMM a while ago that it was contemplating the discontinuation of operations on Corned Beef Row.

Corned Beef Row

Historic image of Baltimore’s Corned Beef Row

“For the museum, this gives us some more flexibility,” Pinkert said about future plans for the property. “Everyone comes out a winner. It combines community service, good business practices, and the way in which we think of the future museum.”

Lenny’s owner Alan Smith said his business will now focus on its Owings Mills and Horseshoe Casino locations. The deli will donate equipment, furniture and fixtures at the Lombard Street location to Helping Up, which will begin a $2.6 million renovation campaign in July.

“This is very bittersweet for me,” said Smith, who worked for four years at Jack’s Corned Beef, which had been at the location from 1965 to 1991. “I’ve been there for half of my life. This wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right time for us. Helping Up called and it sounded like a good exit strategy for us. It just made sense.”

The deli business in general has fallen on hard times in recent years. Last December, Steve’s Deli in Owings Mills closed its doors, as did New York’s famed Carnegie Deli after nearly eight decades in business. In December 2012, midtown Manhattan’s iconic Stage Deli closed after 75 years.

Smith said all 15 employees at the Lombard Street deli were offered jobs at the other Lenny’s locations. Lenny’s has been at Horseshoe for three years and in Owings Mills since 1985.

“The people of East Baltimore have been great, but it was time for a change,” Smith said. “Business was fair, not great, but the real reason we’re doing this is that [Helping Up] came to us and made a compelling argument. It was as good a time to leave as any.

“Time moves on,” he said. “It should be a seamless transition. I just feel good that I’m doing something good to help the mission.”

Helping Up houses approximately 500 men who struggle with poverty, homelessness and addiction. Because of the shelter’s growth in recent years, Helping Up has needed a larger facility.

The mission will set up kitchen operations in the Lenny’s space during May and June, with plans to begin operations the following month as construction begins at its mission facility.

“We are thankful that Lenny’s Deli granted us access to its space so we may expand our operations with less of a burden to our clients,” Helping Up Executive Director Robert K. Gehman said in a press release. “This shows the commitment of Lenny’s ownership to the well-being of the community.”

Top photo: Historic shot of Corned Beef Row and East Lombard St.

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