January 21, 2019

After 30 Years Baltimore’s Seven Mile Market Weathers the Storms of Increased Competition

Baltimore - by Mussy Raitman…It speaks mountains when a store remains on top despite all forms of competition over the past 30 years. It was the late Joshua Guttman that opened the Seven Mile Market with the late Jacob Boehm in 1988. The store has thrived as the flagship independent kosher store of the community’s 20,000 Orthodox Jews, some 20% of Baltimore’s estimated 95,000 Jews. Mr. Eli Schlossberg, a veteran kosher food entrepreneur and a longtime resident of the community, credits the store’s success to the “strong and tight management” of Hershel Boehm and his son Moshe as well as other senior management officials. “They really know their customer and manage the store extremely well,” says Schlossberg, who recently wrote a biography about the elder Boehm.

The 55,000 square foot store is well-laid out with many aisles of grocery and more than 100 freezer doors. “This was a Safeway store that only lasted about three years but it almost seems as if they built it for us,” says Hershel. The big “S” logo still appears on the wall and amenities like dry cleaning are still advertised. But as much as Hershel argues that the store is not Brooklyn, it has the look of some of the larger Brooklyn independents. The Boehms have endured competition from some of the chains like Giants, ShopRite, Wegmans’, Trader Joe’s, all targeting the kosher consumer. In fact, after Seven Mile closes early for the Shabbat on Fridays, last-minute shoppers head to stores like Giant which has a plethora of kosher products. \

About a mile down the road is a makeshift sign "Kosher Maven” which covers over the sign of the bankrupt Season’s. The store recently reopened under the ownership of the Meat Maven that used to stock the Season’s stores with all the Glatt kosher meat and ended up being owed $1.2 million. Instead of recovering the money, Yossie Rubashkin ended up with the store. Although the shelves are still not fully stocked, it has a very upscale look, enough to encourage a mother of 6 to say, “look this is our Pomegranate.” But Schlossberg and others wonder what the mew owner of the former Season’s has in mind to resuscitate the store which could not make a serious dent into the community kosher retail leader, Seven Mile Market.

At Seven Mile there is an energy that exudes success. Although some shelves have many facings of the same products, customers have an unprecedented choice of items, a great fresh meat showcase, fresh fish, Sushi and bakery station, and of course a very upscale takeout section. Seven Mile is preparing to celebrate its 30th by recognizing many of its 150 employees and offering some extraordinary specials. It only takes a short drive in Pikesville to reach the half dozen or so retailers, but clearly, when it comes to the leading kosher independent, for the moment Seven Mile has no competition. It is very much a part of the community with a strong presence of the Star-K, the national certification agency that is based in the community. In fact, instead of snacks and magazines that are the norm at other stores, its 14 or so checkout counters have charity options. Population studies show that Orthodox Jews make up 32 percent of the area's Jewish population, up from 21 percent in 1999, and nearly 90 percent of them feel connected to their community. The Jewish community remains heavily concentrated in and around Pikesville, with 75 percent of Jews living in five contiguous zip codes. But say the word kosher and most residents will say Seven Mile Market, quite a fete fret 30 years.