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Maty Aronson and Jodi Seidel met at a synagogue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “He’d been in temple three times in his entire life,” Jodi says. He chose the third time well, though; five months later, she’d flown to London, where he was working in international finance. After they married, he moved her to Hong Kong for two years. “So I moved him to St. Louis,” Jodi says. “I got the last laugh.”
Meanwhile, Jodi’s brother, Jimmy Seidel, had quit his job as a trader on the floor of the stock exchange in Chicago. “I’m moving to Boulder and opening a sandwich shop,” he told their mother. He named it Snarf’s, and within five years it was a Boulder cult. He went to a baker and commissioned a recipe for a crusty, smashable baguette. “He’s big on smashing,” his baby sister says dryly. He’s also big on environmentalism: Everything gets recycled and composted. “They use the oil from the peppers as fuel for cars and make soap out of it,” Jodi says. “We haven’t gone that far yet.”
Jimmy now has Snarf’ses all over Boulder, in Denver, and in Chicago. Jodi and Maty opened the St. Louis Snarf’s, on Delmar across from the Tivoli Theatre, in September 2010, and they’re already contemplating a second location. A local baker on the Hill follows Jimmy’s bread recipe faithfully. The potato chips come from aptly-named Zapp's, a cult favorite made in Louisiana. They sell Snarf’s giardiniera by the jar, and they’ve had requests to bottle their salad dressings. Maty fills a Sam’s cart with rotisserie chickens every other day, and the other customers either glare at him for taking the last one or toss a few in their cart because they must be good.
Maty’s in charge of daily operations; he even drives their wee, Snarf-stickered Smart car around town to cater parties. He’s a little bemused by all this: “I was working in a bank, and now I am selling sandwiches in St. Louis!” He’s the mellow one in the marriage; “I am definitely not,” Jodi says. But they genuinely like each other, so the working together works.
The Aronsons’ 6-year-old son’s first dream, to become a rapper, is already fading. Their daughter, Eleanor, is “the chic-est 8-year-old in the world,” her mother says. “She’s a real girlfriend.” There’s only one problem, and it’s aesthetic: Eleanor’s favorite sandwich is mustard-and-pickle. A real clash for her sophisticated parents, who sell microbrews and wine along with their subs and salads, and are taking artists’ submissions for a blank space they’ve christened The Blue Wall, which they promise will rival the city’s finest galleries. They just might pull it off; they once moved to a new house on December 29 and had 25 people to a sit-down dinner on New Year’s Eve.
Maty grew up in Israel, and he grins sideways when people ask if a Snarf’s would fly there. He’s thought about this at length. They need Snarf’s. All they have are falafel stands. “First we have to saturate the St. Louis market, though.”
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Photograph of Mary Aronson and Jodi Seidel by Kevin A. Roberts