WHAT: President of Caviarteria, a retailer that markets caviar as the "affordable luxury."
WHERE: Cafes in New York City, Las Vegas, and Florida, and a large warehouse in New York.
ROOTS: Father launched Caviarteria in 1950.
THE PLACE TO BE ALONE: Greta Garbo frequented the first Caviarteria cafe until the New York Post told her fans, who then camped out waiting for her.
GLOBAL FISH-URES: Caviarteria has been roiled by world events. When the shah of Iran was dethroned, in 1979, the Sobols' supply and distribution were disrupted. The fall of the Soviet Union, in 1991, flooded the market with cheap product. "Every Russian carried jars of caviar as their traveling currency," says Sobol.
WOE TO ROE: In 1997 certain species of sturgeon were declared endangered and their importation regulated. Customs agents impounded some Caviarteria shipments, which they failed to refrigerate properly. "That cost us more than $1.3 million in spoiled product and legal fees," says Sobol.
EGGS WITH LEGS: With 80% of its business from catalog sales, Caviarteria hopes to weather the downturn better than competitors that rely on hotel chains and cruise lines.
CRACKS: Still, the recession has made luxury goods a tough sell. "I've brought the entry-level price point down so that people seeing the catalog for the first time see that they can afford this," says Sobol.
THE MORE THE MERRIER: Sobol's average catalog order has fallen from $265 in 1995 to $185 today. But the number of orders is up 30%.
BABY BELUGAS: Part of Caviarteria's marketing targets young consumers. "I love to see tables full of young, tentative couples who put the spoons in their mouths, smile, and say, 'This tastes great," says Sobol. "I want them to walk out of my place feeling like gold."