December 19, 2011

Exclusive Mehadrin Supermarket a Hit with Many Secular Israelis

Jerusalem…by Menachem Lubinsky…On a day when businessman Rami Levy was making news with the announcement of his launch of a new mobile network, one of his prized projects in Jerusalem was celebrating a year of extraordinary success. The Rami Levy Mehadrin (strictly kosher) supermarket in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood was a huge success, because of its kosher certification, pricing, bulk items, and magnificent layout. Although the Mehadrin store is by no means the only supermarket exclusively targeting charedi (rigorously Orthodox) consumers, its layout, range of products under Badatz Eda Hacharedit (certification preferred by most Chasidic Jews) has certainly placed him at the top. Mr. Levy is also taking advantage of an ongoing selective boycott by many Orthodox Jews of Shefa Shuk, a stored targeting charedi customers. Owned by the Blue Square group and headed by Dudi Weissman, Orthodox leaders declared a boycott in 2008 after the chain acquired 24/7 chain AM:PM, which as the name indicates, operates on Shabbat.

Even before one enters the store, there are many pallets of bulk items like beverage and cleaning supplies at the entrance. The store itself includes a special spice room, some 100 linear feet of exotic cheeses from all over the world, and meats and poultry from a variety of certifications, as well as fresh cut meats and deli. Also striking was the array of products with soy, natural and organic and gluten-free. The 30,000 square feet store had an impressive display of items for Chanukah. Its wide aisles made for a delightful shopping experience. According to store personnel, more than half of the customers who frequent the store are not religious, taking advantage of the cheaper prices and broad assortment of goods. “This is my favorite store in Jerusalem,” said a 30’s woman who was obviously not charedi. “I can’t think of a thing in the world that they do not have.” For an American elderly Orthodox couple, it’s the familiarity of the items that they enjoy. Said Elkie: “Look at what I bought - Kedem Grape Juice, Heinz Ketchup, and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and they have so much more.” For Rami Levy, a man who only 20 years ago had a small grocery store in the Machne Yehuda market, this store and some 20 other supermarkets he has since opened throughout Israel, is part of a meteoric rise in true “rags to riches” fashion. According to sources, Mr. Levy is already planning to open nearly a dozen more stores, some of them targeting the Orthodox market.