SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (FNS) -- Price Chopper here created a "Supermarket Sukkah" in the parking lot of one of its Albany stores to serve its Jewish customers during the recent harvest celebration.
A sukkah is a temporary structure where meals are eaten during the eight-day holiday of Sukkot, which is both a harvest festival and a commemoration of the 40 years chronicled in the Bible when the Hebrews wandered in the desert, living in sukkah-like buildings, after they had been freed from slavery in Egypt and before they arrived in Israel.
The Albany store, according to Price Chopper, has the largest kosher department in a 150-mile radius.
Yakov Yarmove, Price Chopper's kosher specialist, said the company did "a lot of advertising, both up in Montreal as well as in Brooklyn and greater Manhattan, to let tourists know about the sukkah, since so many people travel for this celebration."
A group of rabbinical students from the Lubavitch Hassidic group helped to build the sukkah, which had fiberboard walls and a combination of bamboo and pine boughs for a roof.
"A sukkah isn't supposed to have a permanent roof," explained Yarmove, "but it should have one that is heavy enough to shade the sun, yet sparse enough to allow you to see the stars through it at night."
Yarmove added, "People come here from work because there is no sukkah at their offices. They go to our deli, get a sandwich and come out here. And for the people who are traveling with their families, finding a sukkah in a supermarket parking lot is a thrill."
Yarmove said the kosher industry has grown tremendously in recent years. Price Chopper has eight full-service kosher departments in its 96 stores. The Albany store has a 2,500-square-foot kosher department.
"The concept of this sukkah and the business it attracts show that supermarkets are now saying we can cater to that niche market," Yarmove said. "A kosher shopper is a full-basket shopper. You get them in because you carry not just some of their kosher needs, but the key staples, their fresh kosher meat, kosher deli, kosher dairy, kosher cheeses."
Yarmove noted, "We're not in Brooklyn. We don't have a quarter of a million Jews like they do in the suburbs of New York. We're the Albany area with about 18,000 Jews" -- many of whom, Yarmove observed, do not observe kosher dietary laws.
"So it's all the more impressive for Price Chopper to turn around and say, 'We have the kosher section, but we're going to take it a level farther. We're going to put up a sukkah because we realize that this is your holiday,"' he said.
Yarmove also said each Price Chopper kosher section is different just as the communities they serve are different. "In Worcester, Mass., the store has an even bigger grocery section, but its meat is not full-service because it is sold pre-packaged," he said. "Syracuse, N.Y., has a bigger dairy section because perishables are very big there, but their grocery section is a little smaller than the one we have here.
"What we do [when we open a kosher department] is go to meet with the rabbis in the area, meet with the community, get a good feel for what they feel their needs are and, of course, what is in our best interest and the interest of the community."
Yarmove said many Jews used the sukkah during the holiday. "This is what I would consider probably the most Jewish-traveled route," he explained, "outside of maybe New York to Miami, but that's by airplane."
A&P, Montvale, N.J., was the official supermarket sponsor of this year's World Series, in which the champion New York Yankees triumphed over the challenger New York Mets.