February 8, 2016

Pico Stores Snapshot of Kosher Independents vs. Kosher Destination Stores

Los Angeles - It was a typical Thursday afternoon on the bustling Pico Blvd. where shoppers rushed to stock up for the coming Shabbat. Two fairly large independent kosher stores, Glatt Mart and Elat within a few feet of each other seemed to have their distinct clientele. An Iranian Jewish woman at Glatt Mart picked up several products with Persian writing. They included Torshi Mix and Pickled Baby Hot Peppers.  There was a fairly good selection of takeout items and an end cap with some quick ready to cook items like Merguez Spicy BBQ Ribs, Buffalo Wings, and Lamb Shawarma. Both Glatt Mart and Elat had a good selection of Israeli products including pickles from Kibbutz Yavneh. Alice shops at Elat because the “fish selection and fresh meats are awesome.”  But Dinah and Suzie, two young Orthodox women wheeling carriages shop at Glatt Mart “because everything here is kosher and it is under supervision where at Elat the meat and fish are kosher and OK but you have to watch everything else.”

Further up Pico is Western Kosher, a more traditional kosher superstore New Yorkers might find familiar, although far smaller than the new large kosher supermarkets in New York. David Ashkenazi, the store manager, points out the different kosher certifications of his meats to cater to his diverse crowd. A smaller Western Kosher store is in the Fairfax area. The store had a very good Grab N’ Go section with such items as BBQ Chicken, Spaghetti Bolognese, and Cholent. Each of these stores had a fair selection of kosher wines and even Cholov Yisroel Yogurt if you are ready to pay as high as $2.19 (its $1.49 in New York).

But then there was Ralph’s on Pico and Beverly Wilshire, which if you didn’t know better looks very much like an upscale kosher store. Called the Kosher Experience, it is one of eight Ralph’s stores that cater to the estimated 625,000 Jews who live in Los Angeles (10% believed to be Orthodox but many other Jews buy kosher). In fact, the OU was planning Passover tours in the eight stores in March and April. Justin, the manager, says that this store does the highest sales volume of any Ralph’s store and looking around you can see why. The large kosher dry goods aisle is neatly divided into sections (i.e. candy, baking supplies, and cookies). The store has nine freezer doors of frozen kosher products, a complete deli and takeout section, fresh meats, a bakery where they do their own baking including artisan breads, sandwiches, salads, soups and more. Remodeled 18 months ago, this store no doubt gives the independents a run for the money. As one young shopper told me: “This store is everything a kosher customer can hope for.”