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November 25, 1988 - Image 56

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-11-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

A

A1111.1111115•11111111111•1800...-1.1

4,

BUSINESS

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& Liability
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• Specialty Contractors
• Manufacturers
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Metal Workers
Pro-grams

Heavily Discounted,
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Ftf

Howard M. Dubin

Insurance Agency Corporation

260 Brown Suite 300
P.O. Box 12227
Birmingham, Michigan 48012-0227
(313) 258-2898

Can Kosher Diners Survive?

SUSAN WEINGARDEN

Special to The Jewish News

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56

Angelis Banks eats lunch at the empty Cafe Katan in Oak Park.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1988

fter 23 years in the

deli business, Morris
Goodman — former
partner of Lou's Deli — decid-
ed to try his hand in the
kosher restaurant business.
He wanted to be homer
Shabbat.
So he opened Sara's, the
state's only kosher deli. It
shares its kosher status with
Sperber's Cafeteria at the
Maple/Drake Jewish Com-
munity Center and Cafe
Katan, a small pizza parlor
attached to Mertz's bakery in
Oak Park.
Sara's — like the two other
kosher eateries in
metropolitan Detroit — is fac-
ing a dilemma. Goodman says
the restaurant is losing
money. Now he is considering
closing the deli when the
shopping center he now oc-
cupies at 10 Mile Road and
Coolidge is knocked down to
make way for a larger shopp-
ing center.
Rent, Goodman presumes,
would skyrocket beyond his
limits in the new center. If
business would increase, he
says, he would find another
location to put his deli.
Neither Mertz's Cafe Katan
nor Sperber's small
restaurant at the JCC have
reaped profits, leaving
restauranteers and patrons
wondering why kosher
eateries can't make '' it in
Detroit.
Kosher delis survive in
larger cities — New York, Los
-'Angeles and Toronto. And

some cities of similar Jewish
populations also support a
few kosher eaterAps.
Cleveland has four koilier
restaurants — one Chinese
style. Baltimore, with a
population of about 92,000
Jews, has five kosher
restaurants.. Pittsburgh, with
an estimted 45,000-person
Jewish community, supports
four.
"There is not a market
here;' says Henry Sperber, of
Sperber's Kosher Catering.
"It's a very risky thing."
Leo Mertz, of Mertz's
bakery adds, "There is not a
large enough community
here. The Orthodox are not
accustomed to going out to
restaurants. It takes a while
for new habits to form."

Sperber says he does not
generate a profit from his
restaurant at the Jewish
'Center. "It is a convenience
for the community.
"Lunch business at the
center is excellent but not
enough to keep a restaurant
running?'
He relies on his catering
business to pay bills.
Sperber may someday open
the JCC restaurant for
dinner.
While most of his patrons
are Orthodox, Mertz says he
also attracts walk-in business
from his bakery. "If I were los-
ing money I couldn't stay in
business."
Goodman says there has to
be a commitment from the
community for a kosher
restaurant to be successful.
While the dinner business at
Sara's is good, he says it is not

enough to pay the bills.
"People see lines at dinner
and they think we are mak-
ing money;' he says. "Our
lunch business and after-
noons are slow?'
Food costs for kosher
restaurants are higher than
non-kosher restaurants.
"Kosher meat is twice as ex
pensive as non-kosher meat;'
Goodman explains. High
costs are attributed to the low
demand for kosher products,
and the special process in
which cows are slaughtered.
"We are not losing money
because we are doing
something wrong," Goodman
says. "Our restaurant is run
very professionally. Our help
is friendly, the service is
quick and the food is good. We
have over two hundred items
on the menu."
Goodman says his business
is 75 percent Orthodox.
Esther Ryba, a steady
customer from Oak Park, says
she would be very disap-
pointed if it closed.
"There has never been a
place for us to go out to eat ex-
cept synagogue dinners," she
explains. "My husband used
to come home for lunch but
now he can take clients to
Sara's."
Frequent customer Hyman
Beale, a retired Orthodox Jew,
says his community should be
able to support a kosher
restaurant.
"Many of the Orthodox
youth are professionals and
financially able to support it,"
he says. "This restaurant pro-
vides a service and it is exact-
ly what we need."

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