August 1, 2016

Israeli “Makolet” Survives Expansion of Supermarkets

Jerusalem - Shopping on Malchei Yisrael Street in the Geula section on the eve of Shabbat is a favorite pastime for residents and also for tourists who greet each other with “so how long are you staying?” But one of the busiest stores perhaps next only to Hadar Geulah where a pareve cholent and kishke can be a hearty lunch on the eve of the Shabbat is the “makolet” that is actually beneath ground but has a broad array of strictly kosher products including many American kosher brands like Gefen and Lieber’s. Despite the development of a network of large kosher independent supermarkets like Rami Levy that cater to the Charedi (strictly Orthodox) crowd these mom and pop stores thrive in many communities. Henry Kauftheil of Gourmet Glatt in the US has also developed a network of these boutique stores. Shoppers like the “makolet” because they often find it easier to shop. Naomi’s only complaint was that it was hard to maneuver the double stroller down the stairs and around the store, but otherwise “I love shopping here.” She even picked up several English language newspapers and magazines to read over the Shabbat.

Steve Wald, a local resident who covers the business scene here, feels that the American kosher supermarkets are well ahead of the Israeli stores. “Israeli supermarkets are still stuck in late 1990's because the owners of the chains refuse to move forward,” he says, adding: “Only in the last year has an American style supermarket opened in metro Modiin with a first-rate take out department that has a mashgiach” But even so, the owner of the chain refuses to put up a website, does not do any advertising in either print or digital media, and does not have a loyalty card. Wald says that he has perhaps “put a dent in (competitor) Rami Levy” but he says that he relies totally on word of mouth. Whereas the independents have taken significant share from the mom & pop kosher grocery stores, in Israel the “makolet” seems to be holding its own.