August 23, 2009 | 3rd of Elul, 5769

"Sorry, no Heinz ketchup HERE"... Colel Chabad supermarkets: Making the basics affordable...

Colel Chabad supermarkets: Making the basics affordable to those who can't afford the basics

If it's Heinz ketchup or other high-priced brands you're looking for, we suggest you don't shop at a Colel Chabad supermarket.

But if quality is more important than brand, and you want to save between 30-40% on your groceries and cleansers, there are four spotless, beautifully set-up locations that will cater to most of your shopping needs.

According to Natan Kozlovsky the general manager of Israel's most unique supermarket chain "Our purpose is to make all the basics affordable to those who can't afford the basics."

Shoppers at the four shops located in Beitar Illit, Safed, and Bnei Brak run the gamut -- Ashkenzi, Sefardi, Chassidic, and Lithuanian. The common denominator is limited household income and large families.

"We run our operation like any normal store" says Kozlovsky. "The customer chooses what he or she wants and pays at the cashier. In this way we uphold their dignity by never making them feel like beggars."

In fact anyone is allowed to shop in a Colel Chabad supermarket -- no questions asked. But it is evident that most are families that have to stretch every penny in order to put food on the table."

During any given moth between 12-15,000 shoppers (with typical families of 6 or more mouths to feed) enter the four stores and end up spending an average of NIS 90 ($25).

In any other store the same basket of goods would cost them between NIS 27 and NIS 36 more. Hence the average monthly savings to the poor families who shop at the Colel stores is between NIS 324,000 ($85,000) and NIS 540,000 ($142,000). These numbers spike higher before key holiday seasons such as Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah, Purim and Passover.

"We try to cover all the basics when it comes to dry foods, frozen foods, salads and cleansers", says Kozlovsky, "but we offer only single brands or generic brands who work with us to pass major savings on to the shopper. If a customer insists on Heinz ketchup they can afford to go to a regular supermarket. Of course we do carry ketchup, but a domestic brand that allows us to keep costs under control."

The Colel Chain is eager to expand to other communities with high populations of poor families. "There are only two things holding us back, says Koszlovsky; "Our model demands that we pay rent up to a certain limit -- otherwise we would have to charge higher prices which would defeat the purpose. Also, it costs $250,000 to outfit and furnish a new location."

For this one-time setup expense Colel Chabad must count on a very special kind of donor -- one who does not demand that his or her name appear anywhere in the store. This is important because maintaining a normal shopping environment is critical to the chesed the stores are doing.

"Unfortunately it is not easy to find someone to contribute a quarter of a million dollars without getting the expected recognition," says Kozlovsky

So if anyone out there wants to do something really important with their philanthropic dollars, a golden opportunity awaits in the form of financing the next Colel Chabad supermarket. Can there be any greater satisfaction than knowing you are helping to maintain the dignity and self-respect of thousands of families, for generations to come?


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