January 13, 2014

How to Close a Kosher Establishment

It is never good news when a kosher establishment closes for a variety of reasons. Some people become dependent on an establishment; others develop an emotional attachment. There is also the loss of jobs and all the baggage that comes along with the closing of any business. The closing of a kosher business in a smaller Jewish community is particularly painful since customers may be left without any alternatives or be forced to travel long distances to buy kosher fare.

Imagine what happened in Philadelphia when a kosher bakery suddenly closed after more than 50 years of business. Think of the customers who came to the door, only to read a sign that read: “It is with a very sad and heavy heart to tell you that Hesh’s Bakery is now closed and will not be reopening. We thank you for your patronage. We will miss you.” With no warning and no explanation, customers who patronized the store for years could only shrug in disbelief. I asked several of my friends in the industry if there was a better way to close a kosher establishment and heard some interesting answers, including one from a rabbi: “I think that they should go to the kashrus agency, the Vaad or the local rabbi and ask for ideas to stay open.”

Looking at some of the reasons that kosher establishments close, I doubt whether the rabbi’s idea would work. Most closed because of financial issues and acquiring capital is just not that easy. Others closed because of health and were not prepared to hand over their business to strangers. And so it goes, as I kept thinking about the stunned customers at Hesh’s Bakery in Philadelphia.