Ben’s Best was founded by Parker's father, Benjamin Parker. “I would work for my father on weekends and ran the franks and knishes grill,” said the younger Parker.
Parker, 62, is now the third generation of his family to work in the kosher deli business. His grandfather owned a Hebrew National deli on 163rd Street and Southern Boulevard in the Bronx.
Despite the disappearance of classic neighborhood delis, Parker, who took over the business in 1984, values tradition while maintaining his faith in the future.
“All neighborhoods change, but we looked far ahead,” he said. “There is only one reason for success, but thousands for failure. You have to fertilize the soil you are growing on.”
Parker took Ben’s Best in the direction of private and corporate catering for events of all sizes, created an online presence, and processes orders from anywhere in the United States.
“We have 250 corporate accounts that we service all the time,” said Parker, who added that Ben’s Best even provided food on Air Force One under the Clinton Administration.
Parker takes pride in his commitment to the business.
“It has been my life,” he said. “I met my wife and closest friends here. Customers have been here for 40 years, and when they come back, they pick up the conversation from where they left off.”
Parker says he tries to foster new relationships daily.
“I have an obligation to keep the community strong,” said Parker, who has proudly served the Rego Park-Forest Hills Lions Club, Rego Park Merchants Association, and was past president of the Rego Park Jewish Center.
Another key ingredient is tradition.
“Seventy years ago you walked through the door, and you got the same product you will get today,” said Parker. “Consistency is the word,” said Parker. “You won’t get a pastrami sandwich with sprouts and sun-dried tomatoes anytime soon. Corned beef should be corned beef. A little mustard and cole slaw, and we’re good.”
Ben’s Best was a favorite stop for Jerry Lewis, Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Senator Jacob Javits, Governor Pataki, and Mayor Ed Koch. It was in an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and will be featured in Deli Man, a documentary by Erik Greenberg Anjou that chronicles deli owners across the country who maintain the tradition.
While perusing an old menu insert dating to the Lindsay Administration that boasted a 99-cent Friday lunch special, Parker said, “Every day is a challenge to get better than the day before. Whatever you learned on Monday, you bring to work on Tuesday and add to it. Now I am focused on the next 70 years.”