Kosher Community Moving On From Twin City Poultry

Nobody is ever going to confuse the Twin Cities with New York when it comes to kosher food offerings. But what happens when Twin City Poultry, the one kosher distributor in the Twin Cities, closes? That is something that the Jewish community is still coming to grips with.
According to a Sept. 24 report on the kosher-industry website, Twin City Poultry (TCP) released a statement blaming “several major management issues” that caused supply and delivery problems.
“The company was forced to curtail some of its operations to deal with these concerns, which have also had a negative impact on the fiscal stability of the company,” the statement read, in part. “After becoming fully aware of the issues involved, Twin City’s owners and senior management immediately dealt with the health and wellbeing of the company, reorganizing some of its operations and for the immediate future concentrating on several of its key markets. At no time did the company cease operations and now has a firm plan in place to rebuild and restructure Twin City.”
That plan, however, appears to have failed to take hold.
Numerous calls and visits to TCP’s New Hope headquarters went unanswered by the company’s owners, Jay Roberts and Steve Cohen, and several of the area grocery stores that relied on TCP to supply them with kosher food have moved on.
“We were just as confused here (as the rest of the community was),” said Tony Carlson, grocery manager at the Cub Foods store in St. Louis Park. “But we’re just keeping on trucking.”
The St. Louis Park Byerly’s also moved on. In an email from Lund Food Holdings Inc. spokesperson Aaron Sorenson, he said “Their recent closing had a significant impact on our kosher supply. We’ve been diligently looking for a new, long-term supplier and are now in the process of finalizing a new partnership. We expect the volume of our kosher product offerings to significantly improve within the next month or so.”
In St. Paul, Sara Cooper, one of the owners of Cooper’s Supervalu on West 7th Street, said she s finally able to tell customers that her store’s kosher supply is fully stocked.
“We spent a bunch of time and energy and money looking for other suppliers, but it took until really about this week to be set up,” Cooper said. “We had got everything from [TCP], but we’ve since gone to several others.”
Cooper said she got no warning from TCP as they restructured and then, eventually, closed.
“We just stopped getting shipments,” Cooper said. “They serviced us for a week or two in a partial way. Then they were gone again.”
Cooper said her customers – many of whom are part of the orthodox community in St. Paul – were frustrated, but supportive when told that their supplier had disappeared. She said that they might have found a supplier more recently than she did, but the cost would have been higher and the selection not as good.
“TCP wasn’t the only supplier for the Twin Cities, but it was very good for us because they were in our backyard,” said Rabbi Asher Zeilingold of United Mehadrin Kosher and Adath Israel in St. Paul.
Not all are saddened
Sue Morales, the chef at Spirit of Asia catering, said that TCP going out of business was good for her, because it forced her to find kosher food elsewhere instead of relying on TCP.
“I couldn’t always rely on them,” Morales said. “There was horrible service and I didn’t know what I was going to get. I have to drive to a lot of places, but it’s working out good for me.”
Morales said she’s going to Costco for her meat – at better prices and a product that’s “100 times better” than what she had been getting. Although finding Parmesan cheese has proven to be a challenge for Morales.
“I have less headaches, although I have more running around,” she said. “But I will have better customer. Service and the products are better.
This is a guest post by Lonny Goldsmith is an award-winning journalist who is involved in his third Jewish community after growing up in Michigan and spending a three-year stint in Chicago. He is not a native of Minnesota, but hopes to be accepted as a Minnesotan at some point. He likes to write, cook, negotiate with his children to eat dinner and drink really good beer. He can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @lonny_goldsmith