June 1, 2015

Kosher Consumers in Detroit Face Changing Map

Detroit, MI - For many years the Hillier’s Market was a kosher destination for Jews who live in the Greater Detroit area. Kroger of Michigan recently agreed to buy all seven Hiller's Market locations in a deal that will close the Commerce Township store in July but keep the remaining stores open. The news had many Jews and other kosher consumers concerned, according to Alan Gale, a frequent contributor to Kosher Today. But other industry sources were confident that Kroger, which owns many stores with significant kosher offerings would retain a kosher presence in the Hiller stores. For Kroger, the Hiller acquisition is on target with its expansion goals. Kroger aims to incorporate Hiller's upscale, diverse product line and highly customer-focused culture into the chain and develop a hybrid that can be scaled across the grocery division, Kroger’s Ken McClure said. "We've been expanding in natural and organic foods, and in local and ethnic food, so our hope is to learn the local and ethnic components that Hiller's is so good at, and merge it with our stores," said McClure, who worked for Hiller's for 20 years, including eight years as chief operating officer. "We're looking at a hybrid that takes advantage of the best of both worlds." Founded in 1941 as a downtown Detroit butcher shop, the first Hiller's store opened in Berkley in 1951. Many Jewish Detroiters are upset about the news of Hiller’s acquisition, says Gale. “Hiller's provides many kosher and Israeli products and there is uncertainty that Kroger will continue to stock them.  Hiller's was the only remaining Jewish-owned chain of grocery stores in metro Detroit.  In the 1980s, there were 4 such chains. Orthodox Jews who live in the Oak Park/Southfield area generally shop at One Stop Kosher, a large kosher supermarket, which opened approximately 15years ago. Many other Jews who live in West Bloomfield relied on the Hiller stores for kosher. Many of these Jews were concerned that Kroger might not chose to continue the robust kosher section, but industry sources thought that unlikely.