August 6, 2018

Catskills Sales Break all Records but is it a Mere Shift?

Monticello, NY…The huge Walmart store has significantly increased its food section in recent years but when it came to kosher, say kosher purveyors, “they’ve had their ups and downs.” But this year, the significant upgrade of the kosher offering is noticeable, beginning with the entrance where a large “kosher bakery” sign in English and Yiddish stands atop a selection of challah, baked goods, and even artisan breads. A young Chasidic Jew chuckled: “We all can read the English but it’s their way of saying hello to us.” Not too far is a showcase of chicken and processed deli from KJ Poultry, another sign of the mega store’s courting some of the 300,000 summer Chasidic and Orthodox migrants in the celebrated Catskill Mountains. In every section of the huge food section of the store are kosher products, many in the kosher aisle, others scattered in frozen, refrigerated and even in a Klein’s Ice Cream special freezer showcase. Not to be outdone, the year-round kosher dominant Shoprite, just across the road, features an equally robust kosher selection, and of course, Yiddish signage.

In South Fallsburg, the parking lot for Landau’s Kosher Supermarket had already filled many times over with cars parked all along the road just beyond the store. This scene repeats itself in many of the Catskills kosher stores that by and large are having their best year ever. The numbers for sales over the 8-10 week summer period are hard to come by but guesses abounded from as low as $5 million to as high as $15 million. “Look,” said one distributor, “my guess is that Wal-Mart and ShopRite in Monticello alone do about $5 million.” But some kosher food sources say that much of it is “replacement business,” meaning sales that would otherwise have taken place in the city. “All those people who shop at Wal-Mart are likely to shop at a kosher store in the city,” said the distributor. But all told, there was a general consensus that 2018 will go into the record books as the best ever for Catskills kosher sales.