By Cindy Mindell
WATERBURY – Nearly 15 years after a yeshiva took root in the Brass City, the Orthodox Jewish community that has flourished around it finally has a home-grown kosher supermarket.
Proprietor Pinny Spira moved to the city in 2004 to join Yeshiva Ateres Shmuel and fell in love with the local Jewish community. Five years later, he got married and settled in Waterbury.
But something fundamental was missing. “There was a kosher section in the local grocery store but it was very basic,” Spira says. “There was no reason not to have more if it was available to us! Families were constantly bringing food back from New York when they happened to go there for weddings, freezing meats, etc. I knew that I would be able to make a big difference in people’s lives.” Being so close to New York, Spira could easily arrange for regular product deliveries.
He opened Waterbury Kosher World Pizza & Grocery at 701 Cooke Street, taking over the adjacent four-year-old Waterbury Pizza House, one of the first and only kosher food outlets in the city that still gets rave reviews. Under the supervision of Va’ad HaKashrus of Greater Waterbury, the supermarket receives weekly shipments from several kosher food companies, many of which also serve the large New York-area kosher supermarkets. Produce is provided by a local supplier. Spira has five employees and hires from within the yeshiva community when possible.
“Before we opened, everyone was used to making the same foods for Shabbos without much change,” he says. “I really think we have changed the way people cook for Shabbos and weekday meals.”
Spira communicates with the Jewish community via weekly emails, publicizing the ever-expanding landscape of kosher foods like baking supplies, sauces and breading, snacks, sushi ingredients – and even a cappuccino machine. The store houses a deli and meat section, which expands in response to customer requests. In advance of Jewish holidays, Spira says that the store is “completely turned over” to make room for new products.
“There are many important reasons why Jewish families want to move to Waterbury, be it the vibrant Yeshiva K’tana [elementary school] or the close-knit Jewish community,” he says. “But I feel that having the headache of shopping ‘out-of-town’ style has now been removed,” adding to the city’s allure for Orthodox families.