Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Riverdale Kosher Market’s Pesach store. (Credit: Marc Berger)

Skyview Liquor contactless curbside delivery to customers. (Credit: Marc Berger)

Pizza Block has shortened hours. (Credit: Marc Berger)

Governors have declared that only essential businesses can operate. Restaurants are considered essential, but can only sell take-out or delivery. Supermarkets have fewer restrictions. Local kosher establishments have had to change their business models to conform to the new regulations while serving our communities.

Joe Godin, owner of Ember by Smokey Joe, explained, “We have converted our menu and made it more family friendly, as we serve families in their homes. Our menu is online, so people can order and have delivery through DoorDash. You can go online at any time, even in your bathrobe, and order. I can tell you, with certainty, multiple people are regularly ordering at 1 or 2 a.m. Our online ordering makes the process so easy, so transparent.” 

Godin shared, “Our most popular ordered items are our BBQ brisket tacos, hamburgers and chicken schnitzel.” Ember is currently delivering to Riverdale, Westchester and Manhattan. Teaneck is excluded for logistical reasons and they also have many other choices. 

Godin added, “This community has been fantastic, not just in the amount of support. People call to wish us well and say thank you.” 

Ember will be open for Passover, and even has Seder packages to go. Godin noted, “Unfortunately, we laid off all our waiters. We only opened three months ago, and just spent three weeks training them. All our cooks have stayed and they are all healthy. That is amazing and we are glad they are with us.”

Glen Karow, manager of Stamford’s 613 restaurant, explained, “We are just focusing on one part of our model. We always did take-out and Shabbos packages. We are also now delivering to Westchester, which we did not do in the past.” 613’s most popular take-out items include their Shabbos packages, the Joe Lieberman sandwich, burgers, brisket egg rolls, steak and salads.  Karow added, “I think the community has done a great job supporting us.” In the past, 613 would kasher the kitchen at Congregation Agudath Shalom, but this year, their own kitchen will be kashered for Passover.

Eden Wok is also open for pick-up and delivery only. Owner Josh Berkowitz has been offering many specials, including a free third sushi roll and burger night. Eden Wok is selling Pesach food and bakery items, by pre-order, for both pick-up and delivery.

David Gellman from Seasons of Scarsdale explained, “While we always did delivery, not too many people took advantage of us for their grocery orders, it was more meat and prepared food orders. Over the past three weeks, people are sending us full shopping lists for Pesach and non-Pesach. There are fewer people coming into the store and more deliveries and curbside pick-ups.” Gellman added, “I think the community is very appreciative we are open, doing deliveries and all things we ordinarily do.”

Liquor stores are also considered “essential services” under Governor Cuomo’s regulations. “Prohibition doesn’t work. People would travel to other states, spreading the virus. Wine and liquor is a way, when used properly, to relax responsibly in periods of higher stress,” explained Gary Wartels of Riverdale’s Skyview Liquors. “We have entirely changed to online ordering with delivery and curbside pick-up only. Deliveries are contactless. The store has reduced hours of 10-7 weekdays and 12-6 Sundays. We are trying to get the word out to shop online only.” The community is very supportive. Yet, he is surprised how many customers still show up, despite the “stay at home” order. Since they can’t enter, purchases are brought to the door.

Elisha Block explained that Pizza Block is offering daily promotions. Prices are discounted 30-40% and they offer free delivery locally and in New Rochelle, Scarsdale and White Plains. Block stated, “We have extra delivery workers to meet the demand,” adding, “By the response of the community, I couldn’t be prouder to work in Riverdale. They have been supportive and patient. With the surge in delivery staff, there are very few complaints about lateness.”

Another Block establishment, Riverdale Kosher Market, also has seen a large increase in deliveries. “There is a general panic because customers worry the supply chain might dry up, causing staple items to be unavailable. So far, that has been anything but the case,” Block said. “Employees are constantly reminded of washing and disinfecting. Drivers are not allowed to enter into private homes or apartments.”

Even Mendy’s on 34th Street is temporarily operating out of RKM. With the city shutting down, Riverdalian Mendy Merel was concerned about his employees. Block explained, “We are not only using his crew, but moved his entire operation into the Riverdale Kosher Market, offering some of the great dishes and specialty items New Yorkers have come to know. We have daily Mendy’s promotional items for lunch and dinner.”

By Judy Berger

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