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Up Front

August 28, 1997 | 8:00 pm

Save Alexandra Allen from a pickle . Buy her deli for $100.

So You Want to Own a Deli

Bored with your dead-end job? Tired of your boss's endlessnagging? Why not throw caution to the wind and chuck it all to liveyour wildest fantasy: Slicing corned beef by the bay!

Alexandra Allen, owner of Shenson's Deli in San Francisco, islooking for one lucky soul who lusts for the smell of matzo balls inthe morning enough to buy her 65-year-old establishment. And just tomake things interesting, she's practically giving it away.

Just send Allen a check for $100 and a letter explaining whyyou're the best candidate to take over the eatery and grocery store.Impress her enough, and it's yours.

"I've been here almost 11 years. There's just a bunch of stuff Iwant to do, like travel. Especially travel." Allen says.

Lacking previous deli experience is not a problem. In addition tothe equipment and recipes, the winner will also receive 40 hours ofAllen's time for training. "I knew nothing about the business when Ibought it, but liked the idea." she says. "I'm looking for someonewho has passion, who cares about food and people."

The 2,200-square-foot deli and catering business, located on GearyBoulevard in the city's Richmond district, sells everything frompastrami to lox to homemade soups, including many kosher wines,groceries, and frozen foods. Although the kitchen itself isn'tkosher, Allen isn't opposed to making it so. ("It's not antitheticalto my concepts.") Business is "up and down," according to Allen, witha steady stream of regulars.

"We've been here a long time, so we have a broad customer base.People come from as far away as Oregon." she says.

Allen says that there isn't much competition in the area -- onlyone other deli a few miles downtown -- and no others that sell whatAllen deems "real Jewish food."

Her goal is to receive 1,500 entries. Interest so far has beenencouraging, but if she gets too few, the money will be refunded."People tend to procrastinate. There's no way to tell until thebitter end," she says. If her contest doesn't work, Allen isn't surewhat she'd do. "Plan B doesn't exist. I can't really define what willhappen," she says.

To enter, send your essay (500 words, max) and check for $100,payable to "Shenson's Deli Contest," to: Contest, P.O. Box 142, 4644Geary Blvd., San Francisco, Calif. 94118. The deadline is Oct. 21,and winner should be announced about a month later. To learn moreabout the contest, call 1-888-WIN-DELI or check out the web site(http://www.shensons.com). -- William Yelles, Calendar Editor


Israeli tourist Gal Ravid is stranded in Los Angeles.

Don't Leave Home Without Them

'Tis the season of trips abroad, money belts and traveler's tales,so, naturally, the case of Gal Ravid piqued our interest.

Ravid is a 21-year-old Israeli from Kibbutz Erez who, aftercompleting her army service, took off to travel the world -- a riteof passage among kibbutzniks more common than a bar mitzvah.Eventually, she made her way to Texas, where Israeli youths work longhours, operating ice cream trucks and earning thousands of dollars inthe course of a summer.

Ravid turned her cash into traveler's checks at a local Bank ofAmerica branch in Irving, Texas, and then took off to see Hollywood.There, at a Kentucky Fried Chicken on Sunset Boulevard, her purse wasstolen.

Expecting the prompt refund that Visa International Traveler'sCheques advertises, Ravid called her Texas branch. Since the checksare issued through Thomas Cook Travel Ltd., she was told, the officecharged with investigating such claims is in London. So Ravid calledthe London office to replace checks purchased in Texas and stolen inLos Angeles.

Ravid faxed the London investigator, C.W. Youngs, a copy of herpolice report and the numbers of her uncashed checks. Because Raviddid not actually see the thief walk off with her purse, she toldYoungs that she could not prove that her wallet was stolen ratherthan lost, though she is "100 percent sure" she had the wallet withher when entering the restaurant. "If I had lied, I'd probably havemy money," she said, "but I couldn't lie."

According to Ravid, Youngs informed her that because she was notin constant visual contact with her possessions -- the purse wasbeneath her chair at the time of the theft -- and because she was "afirst-time buyer" of traveler's checks, her claim would have to beinvestigated. That process, he said, could take up to six months.

Stranded without money in Los Angeles, Ravid doesn't understandwhy a bank that sells $6.9 billion in traveler's checks each year isreneging on its advertised promise of quick replacements. "This isabsolutely not standard operating procedure," Carol Bretschneider, ofVisa International's public relations, told Up Front. "Something elseis happening here. We're in the habit of taking care of ourcustomers. Having stranded travelers is not a priority with us."

At the time Up Front went to press, Bretschneider had notresponded to our repeated inquiries to explain what else washappening.

In the meantime, Ravid is staying with friends of friends in theSan Fernando Valley. She has no money and no way of going home. "Ifeel they don't believe me," she said. "They're waiting for me tocash the checks. But I don't have them." -- R.E


Culture Klatch

Ex-New Yorkers aren't long in Los Angeles before they startbemoaning our lack of three institutions: 1) A good, chewy bagel, 2)Zabars, 3) the 92nd Street Y, where a regular series of moderatedpublic discussions with noted writers, artists and culture critics isoffered. Sometimes, those of us who live west of Riverside Park cancatch these forums on C-SPAN. No such endeavor exists in Los Angeles-- until now.

"Sunday Morning Conversations" at the Skirball Cultural Center,beginning on Sunday, Sept. 7, strives to bring a bit of the 92ndStreet Y to the Mulholland Pass.

Skirball guests Dr. Laura Schlessinger (top) and author FayeKellerman. Billing itself as "a dynamic exchange of ideas in a relaxedatmosphere" -- this is Los Angeles, after all, and we like ouratmospheres relaxed -- the four-week program will feature:

* Dr. Laura Schlessinger (Sept. 7) -- The ubiquitous radiotherapist will discuss "Values that Shape Our Lives," taking aim at ageneration that she believes has lost its moral core.

* Dr. Janet Hadda (Oct. 5) -- "Passionate Women, Passive Men," alook by the acclaimed Yiddishist at how Jewish literary lions such asI.B. Singer, Norman Mailer and Philip Roth view women.

* Lynda Obst (Nov. 2) -- One of Hollywood's most powerfulproducers ("Con-tact," "Sleep-less in Seattle") examines "The Truthabout Hollywood."

* Jonathan and Faye Kellerman (Dec. 7) -- The mega-selling authorsexplore what novels of mystery and suspense can tell us about ourlives.

The Journal's own editor-at-large, Marlene Adler Marks, will host,starting off each program with some thought-provoking questions, andmoderating a discussion between the audience and the speaker.

Preregistration is required. Admission is $12 (general), $10(members) and $6 (students). To purchase tickets, call Tickets L.A.at (213) 660-8587.

A 10:30 a.m. breakfast precedes each discussion and book signing.Expect the conversation -- if not the bagels -- to be as good asyou'll find on 92nd Street. -- Robert Eshman, Associate Editor

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