By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Apr 09, 2007 at 5:29 AM Photography: Eron Laber

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. -- Steve and Nancy Kashman don't live in Milwaukee anymore, but considering how many old friends drop into to their two Arizona delis, sometimes it feels like it they're back in Wisconsin.

The couple owns Kashman's Place, a breakfast and lunch restaurant with two locations in Scottsdale -- 32531 N. Scottsdale Rd. and 23425 N. Scottsdale Rd. -- and one in Jackson Hole, Wyo. All three are thriving shops, steeped in Milwaukee connections.

They're not Milwaukee natives, but the Kashman family spent a decade in Bayside.  Their kids went to Mapledale Middle School and Nicolet High School, and they belonged to Congregation Shalom.  Nancy graduated from UW-Milwaukee.

Steve was a vice president for Gimbels, and after it went out of business, the family moved around the country, making stops in Louisiana, California and New Jersey -- finally settling in Arizona.

Six years ago, they made the decision to open a bagel shop in Scottsdale, with a mission to make bagels as good as what Steve remembered growing up in New York City.

"I had a friend with a bagel store in New York City that was open 24 hours a day, making a million and a half dollars," says Steve. "I liked that number. I said we should open up a bagel store either in Las Vegas or Arizona, where the population growth in unbelievable."

The taste they Steve wanted to achieve proved hard to replicate, but Steve's hunch was that the secret ingredient to great bagels was in the water.  So he hired an engineer to test and analyze the city water in Brooklyn.  He then built a system that perfectly replicated the East Coast spring water -- turning Arizona water into New York water.  Voila -- perfect bagels.

It wasn't cheap, but it made all the difference. "I have a 450 gallon water tank here," says Steve.

Now that business is booming, the couple has noticed that the many Wisconsinites who've relocated to Phoenix are some of her best customers.

Nancy says that she sees Milwaukeeans all the time at her stores.  In fact, many people she used to know as casual acquaintances in Wisconsin have become close friends in Arizona.

"Coming here is like going full-circle," she says. "People that we would never see regularly, who have second homes here, bring their friends.  We see a lot of people, it's exciting to us."

"It's a major Milwaukee connection," says Steve.

Nancy also keeps in touch with the community back in Milwaukee, taking out an ad in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle each High Holiday season, wishing old friends a happy Jewish new year. Their other store in Jackson Hole is managed by their partner Eben Dorros, a Milwaukee native.

Even their old rabbi, Ron Shapiro, has visited the store, blessing their building.

"When we left Milwaukee it was very hard," says Nancy. "Our kids grew up there and we had a great lifestyle."

Steve says that only 20 percent of his customers are Jewish, but anyone can appreciate a great deli.  They've expanded beyond bagels to offer great breakfasts and lunches, too, and they’re considering new locations outside Arizona.

"We have ethnic foods like corned beef and matzo balls and brisket, many things that are indicative of a deli," says Nancy. "But we weren't going to go that route.  But many people called us that, so we thought 'why not make it a deli'?"

"As long as the food is perfect," says Steve.

"People are coming into our home, and when people come into your home, we want to give them the best," says Nancy.

And Kashman's is definitely a little piece of home for Milwaukeeans who've moved west, which is exactly how the couple likes it.

"We do have very strong ties," says Nancy.

"When Gimbels went away, we had no choice to leave.  But we liked Milwaukee, it's a great place."

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.