The limited number of kosher bakery options in the Philadelphia area will drop further once Homemade Goodies by Roz closes its doors in the coming weeks.
Owner Roz Bratt said the Society Hill bakery at 510 S. Fifth St. will close its retail operation on May 28, with the final day of commercial accounts “no later than the end of June.”
“I just can’t do this anymore,” Bratt said, “I’m 72, will be in 73 in November. I can’t bake like I used to.”
Bratt is selling the bakery — which will no longer be kosher — to a former apprentice.
The pandemic contributed to Bratt’s decision to retire because it has made finding help difficult — a situation common across the baking industry, she said. She typically works with two other employees.
“It’s hard to find good workers who want to stay,” she said, describing people who would work for a few days, then never show up again. When the pandemic struck, she closed for two weeks, then opened wholesaling again and finally the retail part of her business.
The story of Homemade Goodies by Roz dates back to the 1990s, when she worked as a Mellon Bank teller at a branch at Second and Chestnut streets. Some of her coworkers opened a luncheonette, and she wanted to help.
“There was a sign saying ‘homemade,’ and they had Drake’s Cakes there,” she said. “They asked me if I could bake homemade.”
Although Bratt had never made one before — and didn’t have formal baker training — she baked her friends a Jewish apple cake that was a hit.
Eventually, she set out on her own, with her late brother Bobby Rothstein, a plumber by trade, putting the store together. Other friends chipped in, too. Singer Norman Burnett of The Tymes, who had a No. 1 hit in 1963 with “So Much in Love,” was a bank customer who chipped in with the painting.
The store opened in 1997 and became popular quickly.
“(The late Temple University basketball coach) John Chaney would come in here and buy goodies for his basketball players,” she said.
Bratt obtained kosher certification in 2008 and retains pareve, pas Yisroel, certification from Keystone-K, the Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia.
She estimates that 60% of her customers come specifically because of the kosher certification, with the remainder being from the neighborhood or from people just passing by.
“I love what I do, and I know my stuff is good — and it’s not me saying that,” Bratt said.
Rabbi Yonah Gross, who is the kashrus administrator for Keystone-K, said the kosher landscape is always changing, especially as smaller bakeries face pressures.
“There are larger institutional bakeries that have filled some of the gap,” he said.
The pandemic has definitely changed things, too.
“There have been a bunch of home-based businesses” that have sprung up that, while not certified, have spread because of word of mouth, he said.
And some small bakeries have taken advantage of already-certified space. For example, a bakery used the commercial kitchen at Congregation Beth Hamedrosh in Wynnewood — where Gross is rabbi — once a week.
In addition, with the pandemic seemingly winding down, Keystone-K has been approached by both new and existing businesses about certification, Gross said.
Bratt hasn’t decided what the future holds, but she’s walking away with a clear conscience.
“I don’t think I have any regrets,” she said.
Bratt did offer a parting gift to Exponent readers: the recipe for her signature Jewish apple cake from her cookbook, “Homemade Goodies by Roz.”
3 cups flour
1½ cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup oil
2½ teaspoons vanilla
½ cup orange juice
5 apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
Add all the dry ingredients into a bowl.
Add all the wet ingredients into the dry bowl. Mix until there are no lumps in the batter.
Mix the apple mixture together.
Layer batter, apples, batter, then more apples.
Bake at 350 degrees F for one hour in a 10-inch tube pan or until a toothpick comes out clean.
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