Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Knife Man

By Emily Maffei

Not many people know the “Knife Man.” I was able to go behind the scenes at my father’s company and get the inside scoop of the niche business, sharpening knives. I guess you can say my father is in fact the “Knife Man.”

Rudolph Maffei 1903
This business has been passed down from generation to generation. It started in Italy. My great grandfather, Rudolph Maffei, was skilled in knife sharpening. He would use a wooden stand up stone wheel, spun by a leather band. He would step on the arm on the bottom to spin the wheel, once it was at a constant speed he would apply the edge of the knife to the stone and grind down the edge of the knife.

When he came to America, he brought this trade with him. He became a knife grinder in 1903 in Brooklyn, NY. In 1913, he traveled by horse and wagon sharpening knives all around the city. He and his brother Paul were known as the Fort Green Grinders, R.P MAFFEI & BROS.

Rudoph & Paul Maffei, Brooklyn, NY 1913

He passed this trade down to my grandfather, Rudolph Maffei, who started his company in Fort Greene, Brooklyn in the early 1950s, called “Fort Greene Grinding Service.” My grandfather traveled by truck all around the 5 boroughs sharpening knives for restaurants, homes, and most importantly the meat markets in the Bronx and down in the village.

Rudolph Maffei, Brooklyn, NY 1952

He made a good living being the “Knife Man,” but Brooklyn was a rough and tough city to raise a family, so in the early 1960s my grandfather relocated to Ridgefield, a suburb in New Jersey.

My grandfather bought a building and did all his sharpening in his shop and drove a truck to deliver the knives to the customers. He started up a knife sharpening business as a rental service. My father grew up in this shop, driving the trucks, and sharpening knives. Sure enough, in the 1970s my grandfather passed his company down to my father. My father, Michael Rudolph Maffei, started “Maffei Cutlery,” trained people to sharpen the knives, hired drivers to deliver the knives, and he built up the company.

In the early 1980s, my father started expanded his company from hand knives to machine knives and industry blades. About ten years later (1990s) he founded E-Z Edge Incorporated and relocated to a larger building in West New York, NJ. He took the company on the road and began to build up customers all over the country and networked. By the mid 1990s he had more than just a route in the tri-state area, he was international. Vendors from Europe and customers from New Jersey to California.

Michael Rudolph Maffei, West New York, NJ
The company is still growing till this day; everyone always needs a sharp knife. I grew up working side by side with my brothers during summers at E-Z Edge. Both my brothers, Michael and Sean, worked at E-Z Edge throughout their college career. And I currently work there part time while I finish up my undergraduate degree. I may be next in line, but my father will always be the “Knife Man” to me.

Emily Maffei is a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas College.

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