New Fresh Grocer on Monument Road Offers Large Dedicated Kosher Section

The kosher section at the new Fresh Grocer is within the store’s “Natural and Organic” area. Photo by Brad Maule

Everyone expects a supermarket to be busy on a Sunday afternoon, but the new Fresh Grocer on Monument Road, which opened on March 2, was even busy on a recent wind-whipped Saturday night, around 6 p.m., when most supermarkets are decidedly empty.

Some patrons were lounging in the Brown’s Chef’s Market seating area, a homey nook with gas-burning fireplace, table seating and a big-screen TV.

Some patrons were lining up at the “Authentic Fire Grilled Chicken Bar,” or picking out dinner from the extensive salad bar and prepared foods area.

Still others were choosing bottled craft brews for a pick-of-six, and bottles of wine from the market’s well-stocked beer and wine section.

The market wasn’t packed, but it was surprisingly busy for a Saturday night — perhaps because it has the design and varied selection of a Wegman’s at ShopRite price points.

The kosher section at the new Fresh Grocer is within the store’s “Natural and Organic” area. Photo by Brad Maule

It also has a large “Natural and Organic” section in the middle of the store, within which nestles a rather expansive kosher foods section, under the supervision of Keystone-K, Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia. Hanging above one of the several kosher-food cases there’s a Keystone-K certificate along with a photograph of store owner Jeff Brown with Keystone-K’s Rabbis Dov A. Brisman and Naftoli Eisemann.

The kosher food offerings include various kinds of fish (salmon, wild-caught cod, herring, etc.); Empire packaged chicken and turkey products; MealMart packaged beef; Haolam and Miller’s cheeses; milk and whipped cream; New York falafel and stuffed burritos; frozen meals and snacks from Old Fashioned Kitchen, Ta’amti, Garden Lites, Golden, A&B, Kineret, Mendesohn’s, Of Tov and Spring Valley; and refrigerated and non-refrigerated offerings from Gold’s, Streit’s, Manischewitz, Wolff’s, Tabatchnick, Goodman’s, Osem, Kedem, Jason and Galit, among other brands. There are plenty of sweets, too, from Israel and the U.S., to tempt the palate.

The Brown family operates 11 ShopRites in the Greater Philadelphia area, and two Fresh Grocers. At the moment, especially because of Passover, the Monument Road kosher selection is the largest the company offers. But their first experiment with a dedicated kosher section came with the Fresh Grocer in Wyncote.

“That’s where we started to dabble,” said Sandy Brown, director of Brown’s Super Stores, on the phone from Florida, “because like anything, it’s a process, and you have to learn what’s going to work and what isn’t. We wanted to be able cross into the different levels of observance so that we could even cater hopefully to some of the Orthodox.”

The kosher section at the Wyncote store has worked to some extent — “it’s done OK, not fabulous,” said Brown — but she’s hoping the Monument Road location will be more fruitful.

“We felt this is even a larger base, closer to us,” Brown said. “Because Elkins Park, even though it’s not far, it’s not as convenient as this store would be to Wynnewood and Bryn Mawr and those locations.”

Brown, who grew up Reform but has been a member of a Conservative synagogue for 27 years, does not keep kosher herself. So she called on some knowledgeable community members to get advice.

“Rabbi [Andrea] Merow at Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park, she was the first person I went to when we were thinking about doing this,” Brown said. It was Merow who suggested they use Keystone-K for supervision. “She’s been a real partner with me.”

She’s learned a lot, too, from the folks at Keystone-K.

“The rabbis, especially Rabbi Eisemann, have been really wonderful and help guide us on what’s allowed, what we should carry for the holidays,” Brown said.

Even though it’s only been a few weeks, Brown is already thinking about expanding the kosher offerings — including increasing the number of kosher wines. And one of the synagogues she consulted recommended partnering with a kosher bakery or other outside providers.

“We still are evaluating that,” she said. “The more business we do with that clientele, the more it would be warranted to expand it.”

She said Rabbi Avraham Schmidman put it in terms of the proverbial chicken and egg: “You don’t want to carry it if nobody’s going to buy it, but yet if we don’t carry it, then they won’t come,” she said. “So we’re trying to get more expanded offerings and hopefully it’ll grow and develop from there.”

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  1. Tens of thousands of people from ALL walks of life inhabit Center City Philadelphia, BUT there are virtually NO decent full-sized AFFORDABLE supermarkets, other than a number of OVERPRICED “fresh, organic, natural botique, convenience-type” footprints. Other than a box of matzo, matzo meal, or a bottle of borscht, one must travel many miles to obtain even a decent selection of KOSHER. If Jeff Brown could bring one of his QUALITY ShopRite/Fresh Grocers here to the Bagel-Hole of our fair city, it would be an instant HUGE success.


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