Waldbaum’s glatt kosher deli opens by popular demand
BY JUDIE JACOBSON
WEST HARTFORD-The news came in mid-October in a simple statement issued via e-mail by the Hartford Kashrut Commission (HKC).
“The Hartford Kashrut Commission announces the certification of the new kosher deli at Waldbaum’s Food Mart in Bishops Corner. All meat items are glatt…” read the HKC Update.
By then, of course, news of the opening of the first and only glatt kosher supermarket deli in the greater Hartford area had spread through Jewish homes like rendered chicken fat on a thick slice of rye.
What shoppers were not aware of, however, as they loaded up on stuffed cabbage, smoked turkey breast, teriyaki chicken salad and the like, was that they had only themselves to blame.
“The idea to do this really came directly from the community,” says store manager Dave Gallotti. “This is not the store telling our customers how it should be n it’s our customers telling us how it should be. They tell us what they want and we try to satisfy them.”
Not that the store hadn’t considered opening a glatt kosher deli before.
“Development of a kosher deli department is a natural for us, given that we have a kosher glatt meat department and a kosher scratch bakery. But while we always wanted to have a kosher glatt deli, we never had the room for it,” notes Gallotti.
All that changed when the A&P company that owns the Waldbaum’s chain decided to embark on a major remodeling of the 33-year old store. Gallotti suggested the addition of a kosher deli to the company’s top brass n who quickly embraced the idea.
Enlisting the aid of Edye Perew, a “mashgiach” n kashrut supervisor n in the store’s kosher meat department and bakery, and Rabbi Yitzchok Adler, rabbinic administrator of the HKC, the store worked provisions for a glatt kosher deli department into their remodeling plans. Perew, who has been with the Bishop’s Corner store for more than five years, was asked to come on as a full-time senior mashgiach and manager of the kosher deli, meat department and bakery.
“As the construction progressed, many meetings took place to ensure that modifications that needed to be implemented in order to guarantee the integrity of the kosher department were made,” says Adler who worked closely with Perew and the store’s management as the deli took shape. “At every juncture Waldbaum’s was exceedingly cooperative and willing to satisfy the demands of the HKC. They were very easy to work with and I like to think that the history that the store has with the Jewish community laid a foundation that demonstrated a commitment.”
Just days before the store’s grand re-opening on Nov. 16, representatives of the Orthodox Union (OU), the most well-respected national kashrut agency, visited the store after construction was completed to determine whether the deli met the strict standards for kashrut the organization requires before it grants its widely-accepted certification.
The addition of a glatt kosher deli -- the first such deli in the company’s chain of more then 400 stores n was especially welcome news to customers who were regulars in the store’s glatt kosher meat department n customers from as far flung as Albany, Philadelphia, Cape Cod and Maine who often come in groups and purchase meat in quantities intended to last two or three months.
Even more welcome was the news that Steve Shuman, a well-known local kosher caterer, had signed on to provide the deli with prepared foods.
“We wanted to deal with Steve Shuman because he had a reputation for producing a quality product,” says Gallotti, who notes that Shuman’s dishes have proven so popular that he has already doubled the variety of dishes offered.
“The quality of the meals that we are getting from Shuman is so good that it is appealing even to our non-kosher customers,” he says.
And Shuman is just the beginning.
“We hope to eventually include other caterers that are HKC approved,” Perew says.
SUBHEAD: ‘Are you sure this is pareve?’
In addition to creation of a glatt kosher deli, the renovation of the West Hartford Waldbaum’s also brought enhancements to the supermarket’s other kosher departments.
The glatt kosher fresh meat department, which also includes a wide variety of other kosher items, was expanded to include an additional three full upright cases for frozen foods.
Likewise, the store’s kosher section of canned and packaged goods has been increased in both size and product line.
Perhaps most impressive is the expansion of the store’s kosher bakery n one of the few “scratch” bakeries around, says Gallotti.
“Very few supermarkets bake fresh bread, donuts and cakes anymore,” says Gallotti, who helped to open the store’s scratch bakery 33 years ago.
Entirely kosher, the bakery offers both dairy and “parve” n neither meat nor dairy n freshly baked goods.
“There was a time not too long ago that it was difficult to bake something pareve and have it taste decent. Now, many people say to us ‘are you sure this is pareve?’ because it tastes so good,” says Perew.
According to Perew, those who abide by the laws of kashrut aren’t the only ones to benefit from quality pareve baked goods.
“Pareve is the way to go for people who are lactose intolerant,” she says.
To coincide with the re-opening of the renovated store, the newly remodeled bakery introduced a new line of bakery products called “Laromme.” New to Connecticut, Laromme includes pastries, knishes, barekes, donuts, cookies and a chocolate croissant that Perew describes as “to die for.”
SUBHEAD: Supervision is key
Gallotti was not Jewish when the project began…and still isn’t. But he has learned a lot, he says, and has “a tremendous amount of respect for people who keep a kosher home.”
He has also come to appreciate the importance of maintaining kosher standards. As a measure of the store’s commitment to doing just that, there are, in addition to Perew, who serves as a full-time mashgiach, two part-time mashgichim. There are also two mashgichim in the meat department at any given time and a mashgiach on premises in the deli from opening to closing.
It’s important to note, says Perew, that the deli clerks are also working mashgichim n a fact that, she says, “went a long way with the OU representatives.”
In addition, Rabbi Aaron Jaffee of the HKC comes through the kosher meat department, bakery and deli every day to check that everything is up to snuff, kashrut-wise.
Gallotti is pleased with the strong community response to the changes.
“We have really loyal customers who understood that this remodeling project was necessary and they hung in there with us for the six or seven months that it took,” says Gallotti. “Next to that, the think that customers thank me for more than anything else is the way we have taken care of the kosher departments.”
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