“They were there for us, and we are there for them,” says Gourmet Glatt purchasing manager Howie Klagsburn, referring to the outpouring of community support following their fire in November 2011, which put the store out of commission for 12 days.
That same sentiment is echoed by general manager Yoeli Steinberg, when discussing why this year leading up to Pesach is different from preceding years. “People reached out to us during the fire creating an emotional bond with customers, we are so appreciative and touched,” noted Steinberg. Moshe Ratner, co manager, is proud to see his vision of a one stop upscale Glatt Kosher market realized and so well received by the community. Nevertheless his quest to continually improve and meet the needs of the kosher consumer never ceases.
“We see an influx of shoppers from every affiliation, Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Chasidic, and who travel to us from all over. We cater to everyone. From customers that grew up on Streits , and Manischewitz matzoh to ultra Chasidism looking for certification from Williamsburg and Israel,” noted Klagsburn. He goes on further to make the point that “as a nation we were born on Pesach. Statistically speaking, as a holiday more Jews sit down to the seder than perhaps attend shul on Yom Kippur. It’s the yom tov that unites us.”
Pesach is a holiday that many people get nostalgic about. People draw on their Pesach memories of their youth. Klagsburn recalls selling Bartons candy as a child, when really they were the only act in town. As a former director of sales and a 25 year veteran of a food manufacturing company, he sees an explosion of the vast variety of candy products offered for Pesach. “There is such a large proliferation of products now available, including kosher for Passover liquorice and sour belts. “
Klagsburn credits the ever growing mainstream gluten free market as triggering the plentitude of options available to kosher for Passover customers. For companies, the investment made in producing such products yields an infusion of cash as items produced can be sold year round.
Other developments include the use of kosher for Passover tapioca starch, increasing the quality and availability of baked goods. Most notable, is the use of quinoa, which takes the form of a carb on the dinner plate, in lieu of rice, and pasta, but is actually a product borne from a fruit. Klagsburn sees quinoa as the next frontier, (finely ground it can be the Kosher for Passover substitute in many recipes), although to date it hasn’t gained rabbinic acceptance across the board.
Walking through the dairy aisle, Klagsburn points out the expanded variety of available dairy products, cheeses and prepared ready- to-eat dips, salads and spreads, which travel well, factoring in the potential for family day trips with all four days of Chol Hamoed falling on a weekdays this year. The overlap of Shabbos and yom tov also enables shoppers to restock for the last days with less pressure and ease. In somewhat of a breaking news bulletin, he recalls the great stick margarine shortage of two years ago and alerts all, bakers especially, that NO stick margarine is available this year, ONLY the 1 lb block , which has demarcations for cutting into smaller portions.
Klagsburn stresses the tremendous buying power that the store has, leading to better prices. He is constantly negotiating with vendors, often buying well beyond the need for Pesach, especially on items that are pesachdik all year round, such as canned goods, onion soup mix, tuna fish, mandarin oranges, canned fruits.
Rabbi Berel Wolowik, meat manager, stresses that wholesale prices have risen far greater than retail prices. “ We are cutting margins to accommodate the consumer,” said Wolowik. “We are absorbing wholesale price increases to the extent we can... The economy is hurting, we don’t raise prices because its holiday time. Wolowik, a veteran in kosher meat production explains the current economic dynamic driving wholesale costs up. Corn [feed], ethanol , and diesel cost related issues are driving up wholesale costs, and not just related to the kosher market.”
“We are making an effort not to increase prices just before Pesach,…. I make sure that for every holiday there is a beef, veal, chicken and turkey product at a great price, almost at cost, to ensure that everyone can feel that they can buy a nice cut,( not just cheap cuts,) at a fair price. Wolowik calls attention to the upcoming eight page Pesach circular which offers an excellent cut of beef at way below the normal selling price.
Produce manager Ziggy Kohn, and assistant manager John Hughes are booking enormous quantities of fresh potatoes, carrots, horseradish, and apples for the holiday. This year Gourmet Glatt is offering fresh ground horseradish and a wide variety of checked vegetables, such as romaine, and soup greens. The store has invested in a commercial quality salad spinner to speed the output of checked romaine, by drying it faster. Additionally Gourmet Glatt has retained the services of a top well regarded mashgiach with over a decade of experience in produce. So far there are no known issues with availability due to a mild winter. Ziggy Kohn makes a weekly trek to Huntspoint market, which itself is a city, at the wee hours of the morning, in order to buy the highest quality at the best prices for his customers.
Three weeks away from Pesach, Gourmet Glatt is gearing up to make the shopping experience as easy, least stressful and appealing as possible. “As opposed to previous years where there was “swing space” available during the changeover from chometz to pesachdik aisles, (adjacent store across the street in past years, store expansion last year), this year management is faced with a bit of a juggling game, but is up for the task,” says grocery manager Shloy Rubinstein. “This year we have the largest selection of products available.” “In order to enhance the pleasurable shopping experience, Gourmet Glatt is opening up two new registers to facilitate a faster check out time,” says Yoeli Steinberg.
Howie Klagsburn speaks proudly and with great conviction about Gourmet Glatt’s commitment to their customers. “Our price negotiations with our suppliers are stronger than ever. Where we can’t negotiate, we are absorbing many of the price increases. Where we can substitute a brand from an alternate supplier, we will in order to keep prices low. We have a greater variety than ever before and we are excited to help customer’s enhance their holiday.”
Gail Sturm, of Woodmere, is a loyal customer who appreciates that the store is “organized, easy to find things, and so aesthetically pleasing, especially since the store has expanded. They always have what I’m looking for and the staff is always helpful. Its convenient, and centrally located. I only shop here.”
Klagsburn does see the economy rebounding slowly, referring to the somewhat quieter store during the midwinter break, a possible indication of money spent on vacation travel.
To date there is no indication, nor barometer of how many customers are staying home for the holiday, presenting a gamble as a grocery store… that he is willing to take. “Gourmet Glatt’s commitment to the community is so strong. We are sympathetic to the fact that people are hurting financially in the community… We are not just a business, we are part of this community.”
“When you need to shop, we are here,” says Yoeli, noting extended store hours leading up to the holiday.