Erica Goldberg raved about the sufganiyot that the Lunds & Byerlys kosher bakery in the St. Louis Park store would make every Hanukkah. Unfortunately, the ability to get them next year will be potentially a different experience.
After abruptly ending the kosher sushi production at the St. Louis Park Lunds & Byerlys last month, the store announced that it would no longer be producing Kosher baked goods in-house, effective Jan. 1, 2022.
“We’re kind of sad because we always enjoyed or the 14 years that we lived here, always knowing that we can come and find delicious, fresh-baked doughnuts birthday cakes,” Goldberg said. “ Definitely our school (Torah Academy) relies on it for many occasions during the year, so my kids will definitely be missing it.”
Although the sign next to the baked goods said it was due to declining demand, store general manager Ross Huseby said that – much like the ending of the sushi production – the bakery stopping production of kosher has to do with the retirement of a long-time employee.
“It’s the replacement of a 45-year baker; you just can’t replace that,” he said. “We also think that there’s a line some pretty good products that are kosher, that is pre-packaged, that we can purchase from a wholesaler for retail.”
The kosher bakery at the St. Louis Park store also distributes to 24 other Lunds & Byerlys stores. The retirement of baker Draye Olson, Huseby said, is part of a larger challenge in the grocery industry. The Lunds & Byerly’s Mitchell Road store bakery, which distributes products to other stores, has similar problems when it comes to retirements.
“If somebody retires from there we have a hard time with replacement,” Huseby said. He explained that community colleges and vocational schools aren’t teaching things like meat-cutting, baking and grocery management like they used to.
“This and the sushi (ending) we were kind of blindsided by,” Huseby said. “This was not in the works. It came up very fast.”
The store stopped producing kosher sushi on Nov. 29, after the retirement of long-time employee and mashgiach Yale Siegal due to an illness. Goldberg said that he passed away last week.
The kosher supervision had been done originally by Minnesota Kosher, which was then acquired by the Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC). The CRC had no comment on the situation.
Rabbi Eli Markowitz, who leads the CRC regional office in the Twin Cities said last month that kosher bakery items at Lunds & Byerly’s don’t require the 24/7 supervision that foodservice – like producing kosher sushi – needs to have during the production of the items. Markowitz said that had to do with the more intrinsic kosher laws for food service, so anytime there is cooking or food preparation, a mashgiach is required to be on site.
At the restaurants, Markowitz explained that the CRC allows employees to act as mashgiach; for example, a Torah-observant sous chef at Prime Deli handled the role at that restaurant before it closed for renovation.
Stillman said that they are increasing the number of products by Lily’s Baking Company, which they brought into the store after Passover earlier this year, and also looking to bring in products from My Mother’s Delicacies, and challah and other breads from Izzio’s Artisan Bakery
“[Susan] has got a good pulse on kosher offerings,” Huesby said. “I haven’t seen the product line but Susan is pretty excited about it. Anytime you take something away, it’s never a feel-good.”