NORRISTOWN, Pa. -- Genuardi's Family Markets here has become the latest in a growing line of retailers opening kosher deli departments in response to increased demand for kosher foods by people of all faiths. Genuardi's Glatt Kosher deli opened within an existing store in the Huntington Valley Shopping Center, Huntington Valley, Pa.
"We do have a fairly high concentration of kosher Jews in the area", said Jim DeGilio, director, food service, for the 32-store independent. "But we've learned that there are certain customers who eat kosher that aren't necessarily Jewish."
This second set of consumers are attracted to the more stringent handling procedures mandated by kosher law, which sets strict standards for certification, DeGilio said.
The Glatt Kosher deli replaces a "Jewish-style" deli that was popular, but did not operate under rabbinical supervision. According to DeGilio, the venue required the retailer to retrofit the 120-square-foot area with fixtures, smallwares and equipment that could only be used for kosher foods. To protect against accidental use of the fixtures on non-Kosher items, the area was segregated from the regular deli (which is adjacent) by construction of a half wall with a lockable door.
A 12-foot linear case merchandises cold cuts, cheeses, and specialty salads like whitefish salad. Here, Genuardi's also sells raw meat and poultry, and lox sliced to order. Dry-goods shelving flanks the case, where a selection of kosher baked goods -- breads, cakes and cookies -- are sold. These, along with the fresh meats, are outsourced from approved suppliers, though DeGilio said a Genuardi's unit in the planning stages might include kosher baking capabilities.
Perhaps the most important element of the deli is a firm commitment to protecting the kosher designation. DeGilio said the operation must surpass a high threshold of customer trust.
"If they see that our systems and procedures are not in line with kosher law, then we'll be out of business in a minute," he said. "They just won't shop there."
The deli is managed by David Kushner, a certified kosher supervisor (or mashkiach), and has been inspected by Organized Kashruth Laboratories, Brooklyn, N.Y., a leading kosher certification firm that is responsible for issuing the trademark "OK" or "Circle K" seal of surety.
"We even shared blueprints with them prior to constructing it to make sure that we had everything in place and everything we needed," DeGilio said. "Having their symbol on our sign in front of that deli gives us some immediate [credibility]."
Assisting Kushner are two store associates who have received special training. In fact, all store employees attended a special educational session prior to the opening, said DeGilio.
"Everyone was made aware of the rules, regulations and procedures, and how important they are to maintaining [the deli]," and to prevent situations that could compromise the deli's integrity, he said. For example, luncheon meats might be sliced the same way they are in the kosher deli, but there is an unprecedented level of segregation.
"It comes down to cutting boards, knives, spoons, ladles," he said. "We have our own sinks in there so that everything can be washed and sanitized separately."
Storage is somewhat less restricted, provided boxes are unopened. Sealed kosher foods can be stored with non-kosher items until they are exposed. Then, they must be refrigerated apart from traditional foods, which is why the kosher deli has separate cold storage, DeGilio said.
When the kosher deli is closed, customers can still purchase prepacked kosher items from a reach-in case located within the department. The case is also stocked during regular hours.
Business has been better than expected for the new department, and sales have quickly risen above projections, according to DeGilio. The high volume quickly led officials to increase the staffing level, since Kushner -- the mashkiach -- was originally scheduled to run the deli with a single associate.
DeGilio noted that pricepoints between items in the traditional deli vary only slightly from those found in the kosher operation. Here, the point of differentiation is not price, but a commitment to customer service.
"You've got to build it up and maintain it," DeGilio said, adding that outsourced kosher prepared meals may soon be added to the department.