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Deli Departs Jenkintown for Spot at Young Israel

November 6, 2008 By:
Aaron Passman, JE Staff
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Jesse Klapholz

Hungry for a filet mignon? How about a "Philly Minyan" instead?

That dish and others can be had from Klapholz's Kosher, which in August moved into the main building at Young Israel of Elkins Park, after six years at its former retail location on Old York Road in Jenkintown.

Formerly known as Klapholz's Kosher Delicatessen, the business dropped the "deli" designation to focus more on catering, according to owner Jesse Klap-holz, which he characterized as an easy shift, since his retail business only accounted for about 15 percent of the company's revenue before moving.

"It's a change in direction a bit," said Klapholz. "There's less emphasis on the retail, and more emphasis on supporting the idiosyncrasies of the local Philadelphia kosher market."

While a synagogue may seem an unusual location for the business, Klapholz said it was fairly simple: "I was looking to move, and the facility was available."

According to Rabbi Dov Brisman, the synagogue had in the past looked to bring a caterer into the building, but, for various reasons, it didn't happen until now.

"It brings some warmth and some atmosphere into the building," said Brisman, adding that the congregation likes having the caterer present. "It speaks well for the shul," he added.

One of the motives behind the move, said Klapholz, was that the retail market was falling off. Plus, he said, "the younger Jewish generation doesn't identify with 'deli.' "

"The generation that grew up on eating corned-beef sandwiches every day, we're not doing that anymore," he said. "We're eating a corned-beef sandwich as a treat every once in a while." Klapholz added that, for many Jews, keeping kosher "isn't as important for their daily diet as it is for when they have a life-cycle event or a Jewish organizational meeting."

Another benefit of the move is space. The old location was strictly retail, he said, and moving to the synagogue has allowed easier storage, loading and convenience, among other things.

In its new facilities at 7715 Montgomery Ave., Klapholz's Kosher has "five times" the amount of space as compared to its previous location -- "it was a postage stamp," said Klapholz -- including access to a catering hall in the synagogue that can hold 250 people. The business uses the synagogue's kitchen space, though Klapholz has supplied much of his own equipment, including state-of-the-art ovens (both convection and steam-powered) with recipes electronically programmed in. Also coming soon will be a 23-foot-by-17-foot refrigerator to house the specialized cuts of meat he uses -- everything from beef and bison to poultry and fish, all of it glatt kosher.

"The demand for where my niche is has gone up because of the economy," explained Klapholz. "People don't want to spend $250 a plate, and they want something more economical. So because of our size, we're able to cater to that need."

Because Klapholz's does such a large percentage of its business through catering, "Most of our customers had never even been to our store -- and a lot of them don't even know we've moved," said the owner.

The business, though, still has a small retail component, including take-out orders and informal luncheons held at the synagogue.

Klapholz said the business, though no longer a traditional restaurant, still has to abide by the same health-department regulations as in its former incarnation -- no problem for Klapholz, who is a certified food-safety manager.

"The only thing I flunked on the tests were the questions about shellfish," he joked.

Whatever the location, Klapholz and his chefs are doing what they've always done: "It's cooked here under the rabbi's supervision, and you can't get much more supervision than that -- he's in and out of the kitchen all the time."



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