After closing its Northeast Philadelphia location in May, Lipkin’s Bakery has found a new home to sling knishes.
Last month, Lipkin’s Bakery reopened as Lipkin’s Best, merging with Overbrook Park’s Best Cake Kosher Bakery after it acquired Lipkin’s. The bakery, located on Haverford Avenue, will maintain Best Cake’s Keystone-K kosher certification.
Previously, Lipkin’s Bakery was supervised by Ko Kosher services; it served dairy products and was open on Shabbat.
The Lower Merion bakery will continue to produce most of Lipkin’s original menu, bar its dairy knishes, in compliance with the pareve hechsher. Lipkin’s pizza knishes will remain on the menu, but will use dairy-free vegan cheese. Lipkin’s Best will also continue to serve cakes and challahs, but will be closed on Saturday for Shabbat.
“I figured, you know, two kosher bakeries are better than one,” said Lipkin’s owner Steven Nawalany about the new partnership.
In July, Best Cake owner Paul Spangler approached Nawalany about a potential partnership. Spangler was a longtime customer of Lipkin’s and had previously worked with Nawalany on business endeavors that never got off the ground. When Lipkin’s closed in May, the two had an opportunity to finally bring a partnership to fruition.
“Lipkin’s has an iconic name in the Philadelphia market,” Spangler said. “Along with that, they have a very loyal customer base. And so for those reasons, along with others, it was a good marriage.”
Nawalany closed Lipkin’s Northeast Philadelphia location — the bakery’s home for 47 years — due to the rising cost of ingredients and trouble hiring front-of-house staff. Lipkin’s move to Best allowed Nawalany to keep his back-of-house bakers and serve more wholesale clients.
Lipkin’s Best’s Keystone-K hechsher and location in Lower Merion offers to expand the bakery’s Orthodox clientele. So far, Nawalany said the partnership has been successful. Halfway through Rosh Hashanah, the bakery sold out of knishes, having exceeded what they planned to sell over the two-day holiday.
“I didn’t realize how big of a demand there was for these knishes,” Nawalany said.
Though Nawalany and Spangler plan to expand wholesale endeavors and consider catering options, Nawalany hopes Lipkin’s can maintain a wholesale presence in Northeast Philly.
The fruitful business of the new bakery may have come with some ease, but Lipkin’s transition to Best Cake’s Keystone-K hechsher took some elbow grease.
In addition to Nawalany and his bakers making the move to Best Cake’s location, so too did Lipkin’s 1,700 lb. knish lamination machine, which needed to be kashered before being transported to the bakery’s Overbrook Park location. Nawalany and Spangler disassembled the machine and thoroughly cleaned each individual part.
According to Keystone-K administrator Rabbi Yonah Gross, because the knish machine does not generate heat (like an oven or stove would), the kashering process was not as elaborate. For pieces of equipment that produce heat, kashering is complicated.
Towards the end of the book of Numbers in the Torah, the Israelites go to war with the Moabites. When the Israelites returned home with their spoils of war, they thoroughly cleaned the vessels that were used by Moabites for cooking because when metal is heated up, it absorbs the taste of whatever it was cooked in.
“Therefore, there’s a process that it needs to go through to get whatever it is out of the walls of the metal before it can be used for kosher products,” Gross said.
While the knish machine did not have to go through a more elaborate kashering process, Spangler did go the extra mile to ensure the pieces of equipment were suited for his bakery: The removable parts of the machine took a dip in the mikvah.
Cleansing objects in the mikvah is not always necessary in the kashering process, but in this case, certain parts were submerged to satisfy any doubts regarding its origin. Though the theory is not certain, the idea behind dipping objects in the mikvah has been compared to the reasons why a person converting to Judaism enters the ritual bath.
Because Spangler is Jewish and owns a kosher business, dipping the knish machine in the mikvah was an important part of the bakeries’ partnership. For non-Jewish businesses that fall under Keystone-K’s supervision, this process is not necessary.
“When a person first converts to Judaism, they now can use their body towards more sanctified purposes,” Gross said. “So too, these products are now going to be used for sanctified purposes.”
Gross clarified, tongue-in-cheek, that, indeed, making kosher knishes for the Philadelphia Jewish community would hopefully fulfill a sanctified purpose.