“It really doesn’t mean that much to me to be the largest, we just try to do the best we can for the customer,” said Seven Mile Market owner Hershel Boehm.
But experts say the Pikesville’s market’s expanded size could help it attract more customers.
Jeff Metzger, publisher of mid-Atlantic food industry trade publication Food World, said he thinks that the store is in an ideal location to attract its key demographic of customers. Seven Mile’s size, variety of products and location will help it remain successful, he said.
“The overall nature of the business is as competitive as it’s ever been,” said Metzger. “The fact that the new Seven Mile Market opened, they’re going to find the old marketing area the way they have found in the past, but they’ve got a tremendous opportunity, they’ve got the size and scope to attract new shoppers by increased variety and selection.”
The new, 55,000-square-foot Seven Mile Market, which opened Tuesday, is less than 100 yards away from the old, 28,000-square-foot store that stayed open through Monday. Rockland Kosher Supermarket, in Monsey, N.Y., is the second-biggest kosher market in the country, at 50,000 square feet.
Already customers commented on how the almost full, formerly Safeway parking lot was far busier than it had been when the grocery giant used the building.
Inside, women with hair covered by wigs or cloth and modest clothing pushed shopping carts, holding their baby with their other arm as they looked at kosher tomato sauce. Men in black suits with long beards and skull caps waited in line at the deli. Aisles full of only kosher frozen items consistently held customers’ attention.
Increased kosher options will work in the market’s favor, said Metzger. Loyalty in the retail area has decreased significantly during the past 10 years. There are more choices for customers — price, variety — and many shoppers do not have a problem looking elsewhere.
The owner of one of Maryland’s other kosher markets, Shalom Kosher in Wheaton, said he isn’t concerned about the impact of the newly expanded Seven Mile Market, but he said he expects some of his customers to give it a try.
“They run an amazing operation [and] we have a good relationship. As to how it’s going to affect my business, I really don’t know,” said Larry Dekelbaum. “They just moved to a little bit of a different location. That’s really it.”
Boehm agrees. He wants business to increase because the rent at this location is higher, but he doesn’t see anything about his operation that is different than other kosher markets. Boehm said he had seen some new faces at the store in its first days of operation, including customers who told him they came from as far as Virginia.
Beyond drawing customers from other areas to Baltimore County, the store is an asset to the community residents. The store enhances the community revitalization district, said the marketing and communications director for the Department of Baltimore County Economic Development.
“It adds amenities for orthodox Jews who keep kosher,” said the director, Fronda Cohen. “It really makes [Seven Mile Market] a destination for people within the city and county who are looking for those products that you can’t find on just any store shelf.”
Maryland has approximately 241,000 self-identified religious and cultural Jews, or approximately 4.3 percent of its population, according to 2008 U.S. Census data released in February 2010.
The extra space was necessary, too, said Boehm. The building has room for a wider variety of products, a new pharmacy and an expanded bakery in the additional 27,000 feet of space. A woman handed out grilled tilapia on the second day for customers to sample the market’s expanded fish market.
In fact, Boehm resents that his market will now be associated with the record-breaking title in part because of the missing quality reference.
“I hate that we’re called the largest kosher supermarket,” said Boehm. “We’re a local market that attracts a wide range of customers. But we try to just serve our customers here. Being the largest is not really a meaningful description.
“We just try to give the customers a fair shake,” said Boehm as employees rang up fresh produce with their new cash registers. “We try to make it nice and pleasant. I guess the other kosher supermarkets try to do the same thing.”