February 22, 2016

South Florida: Three Months of Big Business

Wherever you turned in South Florida you could see the hordes of snowbirds, mostly young families with children on winter break. There were lines at almost every kosher restaurant and some flatly turned away customers without reservations. For someone like me who also visits Florida in the off season, the contrast was striking. To be sure, the state of Florida, particularly South Florida, includes one of the largest Jewish communities in the US and there is certainly a great deal of activity year-round. But at this time of the year, it takes on the appearance of some of the most vibrant Jewish communities.

I very much enjoyed visiting some of the upscale kosher restaurants, several relatively new with exciting menus. One experience my wife and I had was indicative on just how overwhelming this seasonal business is for some. When I tried to make a reservation by phone at one restaurant, the designated extension for reservations did not answer. On the third try, a woman said: “no reservation necessary, just come in.” When we did, the maître d looked at us: “You don’t have a reservation? Sorry, we are fully booked!” We, of course left but as you might imagine, it left a bad taste. We found prices at retail stores much higher than they were a year ago. In one store, I spent $212 for what would have been $130 in Brooklyn. Greek Yogurt sold for $2.09 instead of $1.49 in Brooklyn and so forth. In the end, I recognized that for some this was a 3-month business and then they all come down to earth again. I’ll be there when that happens as well!