Seasons, New York-based kosher market, planned for Pikesville

5/15/15 Pikesville, Md. A New York-based kosher supermarket chain, Seasons, plans to open a store later this year in a former Office Depot in Pikesville. Photo by Lorraine Mirabella/Baltimore Sun (Lorraine Mirabella / Baltimore Sun)

May 18, 2015

Seasons, a small New York-based kosher supermarket chain, plans to expand to Maryland, with a grocery store slated to open in Pikesville as early as the end of the year.

The upscale specialty grocer plans to move into a former Office Depot on Reisterstown Road, just inside the Beltway. The interior of the more than 10,000-square-foot store has been gutted.

The retailer, which has four locations in and around New York City, is expected to open the store by the end of the year or in early 2016, owner Mayer Gold told online food industry publication Kosher Today. Gold did not return calls seeking comment.

The chain would join Seven Mile Market as one of the area's only full-service grocery stores certified as kosher, meeting a growing demand from both Jewish and non-Jewish shoppers, experts said. The stores offer delivery and catering and a range of gourmet and mainstream products in bakery, butcher, produce, seafood, sushi, takeout and floral departments.

"I think the market for it is huge," said Jeremy Diamond, a director of Diamond Marketing Group and an industry consultant.

The chain, which opened its first store four years ago, is comparable to The Fresh Market in appearance and offerings, and "will pull from kosher clientele and the Jewish neighborhoods and from non-Jewish" consumers, Diamond said. "Seasons is a gourmet supermarket that happens to be kosher."

A growing demand for kosher products has long been met by small mom-and-pop markets and, recently, by conventional grocers and discounters such as Target adding kosher sections, said Menachem Lubinsky, editor of Kosher Today.

But another trend has emerged as larger, full-service kosher supermarkets have been expanding around the country, he said. That growth has been driven by increases in numbers of kosher consumers and spending on kosher meals, Lubinsky said.

"They are loyal customers, and it's become important to give them a one-stop shopping experience," Lubinsky said. "It's a recognition of the growth and demographics, not only by the Orthodox, but all Jews, as well as a huge crossover market of non-Jews and other religions that can't eat pork."

More than 108,000 people in the Baltimore area live in Jewish households, or households with at least one Jewish adult, according to a 2010 community study by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. The study, which found an 8 percent increase in Jewish households over a decade, showed that three quarters of the region's Jews live in Pikesville, Park Heights, Owings Mills, Reisterstown and Mount Washington.

Besides Baltimore, Seasons is expanding into New Jersey's Lakewood community, Lubinsky said.

Seasons is among a number of independent kosher supermarket chains that are opening new stores and positioning themselves as upscale, he said.

"The demand is there," Lubinsky said. "It may be at the expense of the older stores in the market a long time. The pie may be cut up a little differently, but from what I'm seeing, they've been very successful."

The kosher food industry represents a $13 billion piece of the overall grocery industry, Diamond said.

And "most kosher food buyers are not Jewish, surprisingly," he said.

Much of the demand is driven by consumers on vegetarian or other restrictive diets or those looking for healthier options, he said.

"People think that kosher food is healthier for a lot of reasons," Diamond said. "The food is certified and checked and sanitized multiple times during the manufacturing process."

Seven Mile, also on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville, operates one of the country's biggest kosher supermarkets. The store expanded in 2010 to its current location, a former Safeway, from a smaller spot on Seven Mile Lane.

Hershel Boehm, owner of Seven Mile, had no comment on the potential impact of Seasons opening.

But his store's "business is good," he said. "We're happy where we are and try our best."

Cheryl Mordfin, who lives near the Seven Mile supermarket, said she shops once or twice a week at the store for meat, fish, and other groceries, including products from Israel.

"It's one-stop shopping, and it's very convenient," Mordfin said.

But she and other shoppers said they were eagerly anticipating having another kosher grocer in the area. Mordfin said she would expect to shop at both stores once Seasons opens.

"I'm interested to see what will be there," Mordfin said. "If it's good food and a variety, than I think it will be very busy. Competition is always good."