A fixture at two of Baltimore's best-known and beloved restaurants, Minna Shavitz was influenced by the strong role model of her working mother, who owned and operated a dry goods store in Georgia with her father. Born in 1910, Min was raised in a small town outside of Atlanta, one of only two Jewish families. She was educated at Sullins College in Virginia and, in 1930, married Leon Shavitz, a traveling salesman who sold goods to her parents. After moving to Baltimore, they opened their popular restaurant and delicatessen, Nate's and Leon's, with partner Nathan Herr. Often working late into the night, Minna found great satisfaction in her active work life and the dynamic social world of Nate's and Leon's and, later, The Pimlico Hotel. Their daughters, Reta and Gail, frequently helped their parents at the restaurant, where Min worked as a cashier, hostess, and manager for over thirty years. Min maintained an active social life in retirement, a woman of charm, poise, and loyalty, taking pleasure from a wide circle of dedicated friends and her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Minna Shavitz passed away on November 2, 2008.
Minna was born in Atlanta and raised in Gainesville, Georgia. Her family was originally from Russia. Minna describes growing up in the South, the presence of the Klu Klux Klan, the difficulties of growing up Jewish in Gainesville, feeling isolated, and encountering antisemitism. Visiting Atlanta gave Minna more of Jewish social life, and her family attended synagogue there. Minna talks about her close relationship with her sisters, having a privileged upbringing, and her childhood dreams for the future. Minna recalls her home life as a child, the Jewish holidays they celebrated in the house, her mother's attempts to keep Kosher, and her parents' contrasting personalities. She laments her lack of a Jewish education as a child. Minna attended Sullins College in Virginia and loved campus life. After college, Minna met her husband, Leon Shavitz, and she discusses the challenge of their early married life, the birth of her daughter, and learning more about Judaism from her mother-in-law. Minna also compares Northern and Southern Jewish communities and lifestyles. Minna and Leon started a delicatessen, "Nate's and Leon's," where she enjoyed working. She remembers the deli, the food, and the cheerful atmosphere fondly. Eventually, they sold the deli, and the Shavitz family bought a new restaurant, The Pimlico. Minna details the challenges of owning a business and its impact on her marriage and family life, but she was able to make friends through work. Finally, Minna reflects on being a working woman, finally retiring, losing her husband, and the lives of her children and grandchildren.
How to cite this page
Oral History of Minna Shavitz. Interviewed by Marcie Cohen Ferris. 22 March 2001. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 3, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/shavitz-minna>.
Oral History of Minna Shavitz by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.