March 24, 2014

The Commack Butcher who Fought Demographics and Market Trends and Lost

COMMACK, LI — Was this a case of “operation successful – patient dead?” The Commack Kosher Caterers Deli & Market of Suffolk that successfully fought the New York State’s 100 year kosher food laws has closed its doors. “I didn’t fail the community, the community failed me,” Brian Yarmeisch, the owner, told one customer. 

In an era where most of the kosher market is opting for the highest standard, the Commack butcher challenged the very definition of kosher, arguing that his Conservative “hechsher” is just as kosher. But even secular customers who now have a world of choices of large kosher independent kosher supermarkets, defected in large numbers. Some kosher delis without any certification also saw their businesses fail as they never adapted to the new realities of the kosher market. 

The Commack butcher was a remnant of a network of kosher butcher stores that dotted the metropolitan area kin the 50’s and ‘60’s. Most did not have any kosher supervision and customers relied on the integrity of the owners. They all had a large Hebrew sign on the window: “Basar Kasher” – Kosher Meat, but the kashrus of the meats were largely based on the say-so of the owner-butchers and was found to be suspect in most stores. These stores eventually gave way to the changing demographics, new standards of kosher certification, and a changing retail market that transitioned into supermarkets. 

Said the Jewish Week: “In one final attempt to save the business, Yarmeisch kept part of the store open on Saturdays but closed the butcher/meat section in deference to the Sabbath. Dinerstein said that until a week before he closed the store, Yarmeisch was attempting to sell the business to no avail.”