Monticello WalMart Beefs Up Kosher Section


walmartFirst, Walmart in Monticello conquered the Main Street market of hardware and underwear. Now the retail giant is going after another market – the Catskill kosher market of gefilte fish and blintzes.

The Monticello Walmart just ran a full-page ad touting “expanded selections” in its “new kosher fresh section for the summer 2010.” It’s added kosher products like Empire organic chicken and Teva Angus beef sliders.

And already in Sullivan County where the summer population triples with tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews, the push for the kosher buck is having an impact.

A woman who was recently buying a whole organic kosher chicken for $3.68 a pound – in a case a few feet from the smoked pork hocks – said the Walmart in Monticello is convenient, the food is fresh and the prices are great.

“We just want to have on hand what our customers want,” said Bill Wertz, a Walmart corporate spokesman.

But unlike many non-kosher mom-and-pop shops that can’t compete with the corporation whose bankroll would make it the world’s 19th-richest country, the dozens of summer kosher shops in Sullivan say they’re ready to battle for their slice of the county’s million-dollar kosher market. It’s a market that nationally is worth $200 million annually, although a Walmart spokesman wouldn’t reveal local sales.

But delicacies like homemade gefilte fish – instead of Walmart’s frozen or bottled – fresh-cut beef flanken and fresh-baked kishka that are nowhere to be found in the Walmart kosher section with a Spanish sign above it.

“And people just die for my Jerusalem kugel,” says Shmuel Wimer of Meal Mart in South Fallsburg, as he points to other specialties ranging from chulant (a chili-like blend of beef, beans, tomatoes and barley) to kasha varnishkes (buckwheat groats with noodles). “And if I don’t have my petcha (jellied beef feet), my customers “» oh.”

The kosher shop owners – from places like Brooklyn, Monsey and, in Wimer’s case, Israel – may not know it, but they’re doing just what small shop owners in California or Texas do when Walmart opens Asian or Mexican food sections, says Nelson Lichtenstein, author of “The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business.”

“They find a super niche,” he says.

They also provide the personal service many kosher shoppers say Walmart lacks.

Take Mountain Fruits supermarket in Monticello, which custom-grinds kosher beef and butchers that flanken in a shop that stocks everything from kosher Pez to kosher organic sesame breadsticks.

“They can try, but they don’t have the flavor for the ultra kosher customer,” says owner L.D. Itzkowitz.

Local shops like Mountain Fruits – and even longtime kosher food stocker ShopRite – also have loyal summer customers who appreciate the personal touch.

“It’s not like Walmart is really going all out for us,” says Tudy Bloomberg of Manhattan and Monticello, standing near a ShopRite sign that welcomes visitors in Hebrew. “I’d rather go to someone who’s exclusively looking out for us.”

But what if Walmart, with $405 billion in sales last year, does dent Sullivan’s summer business?

Kosher shop owners aren’t sweating – even in this heat.

Motty Cohen, manager of Landau’s supermarket in South Fallsburg, stands near a display of supplements like aged kosher garlic extract and points upward, to a higher authority:

“It’s all up to Him.”

{Times Herald Record}

{Noam Newscenter}


  1. The last 2 years their Kosher section — especiall perishables such as mean and dairy — has been VERY LACKING compared to 3 and 4 years ago.

  2. Isn’t there a halacha that requires purchasing from members of our community? I know price is a consideration, but Walmart’s prices are not any better on most heimishe products than the heimishe supermarkets.

  3. I think it is remarkable that this is considered news. Besides the fact that it is only relevant to those living in proximity to the store, it seems that this type of reporting should belong on a different site – perhaps OU’s consumer website or some blog devoted to keeping obsessive-kosher customers updated on all happenings in the kosher food market at large.

  4. Nothing doing. My place is a hop away from Walmart….they don’t even store Milk.Their fruit and vegetables are way overpriced….as are most of the stores in the mountains. If you are looking to get good prices, have your husbands bring it up when they come for the weekend….especially those with cars. All in all, I don’t see the big yichus with Walmart, unless you just happen to run out of something they store and you need it badly, you got it.

  5. Good reporting, if you find a particular news item uninteresting, you can opt to skip it. If you think this was not worth reporting, then it was certainly not worth commenting on!

  6. Bad commenting,
    As my remark was intended for the editors of this website – who surely are happy to receive helpful feedback on improving their website – it would seem logical if not imperative to comment on this article. After all, it wouldn’t make much sense to criticize a good article, but perhaps you would disagree as you seem to look disdainful at worthy words.