The son of a rabbi who was known for owning an iconic kosher deli on Manhattan’s Lower East Side now owns the nation’s largest kosher supermarket chain. Joseph Bistritzky, his family and a group of investors are the new owners of the six-store Seasons franchise, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last fall.
Bistritzky’s father, Rabbi Leibel Bistritzky, whose family left Nazi Germany when he was 12, owned Bistritzky’s Kosher Gourmet Food, one of the first kosher food specialty stores. He was also a founder of Hatzalah of Crown Heights, a volunteer emergency ambulance corps.
The rabbi died in 2013, at age 86.
“We have redeveloped the operational side of many businesses by forming and training managerial teams to have a keen understanding of community relations and family interface,” Joseph Bistritzky said in a Jan. 29 news release. “Each member of our family brings a different strength to our team. Together we have years of familiarity with kosher food manufacturing and distribution.”
Seasons’ former owner, Mayer Gold, will serve as vice president of operations, the Bistritzky family said.
Last August, the Herald reported that the shelves of the Seasons on Central Avenue in Lawrence were empty, and there was much speculation about the future of the store and eight others in the chain at the time. Gold obtained an infusion of cash that helped the stores pay vendors and restock merchandise, but Seasons sought bankruptcy protection in September, reporting $5 million in assets and $42 million in debt.
After reorganization, six supermarkets will remain, two of them in Lawrence. One, a Seasons Xpress, describes itself as the only kosher supermarket in the country that is open daily 24 hours a day Sunday through Thursday. (It closes two hours before Shabbos on Friday, and reopens two hours after the religious observance ends after sunset on Saturday.) There are two other stores in New York, in Kew Gardens Hills and Scarsdale, and two in New Jersey.
The Scarsdale store is scheduled to reopen in a completely new 10,000-square-foot space, four times its former size, on March 3. Markets in Manhattan, Baltimore and Cleveland are now closed, and plans to open another Seasons Xpress on Peninsula Boulevard in Cedarhurst have been shelved.
“In regard to Seasons Xpress, the only location right now is in Lawrence,” said Regina LoBiondo, a spokeswoman for the Bistritzky family. “We are not ready to comment on any other locations, but would be happy to share information when we have it.”
Seasons is renowned for its online ordering and delivery service, which encompasses Atlantic Beach, Cedarhurst, East Rockaway, Far Rockaway, Hewlett, Inwood, Lawrence, Lido Beach, Long Beach, Lynbrook, Valley Stream, West Hempstead and Woodmere.
In less than four years, the Five Towns kosher supermarket landscape has changed and expanded. In 2015, Gourmet Glatt, which has a store in Cedarhurst, bought the Key Food building in Woodmere and opened a store there. Brach’s, in Lawrence, closed in 2016, and in January 2018, half of its 40,000-square-foot building was taken over by KolSave, a discount kosher supermarket similar to Brach’s. (The other half is occupied by Amazing Savings.)
Zeke Kreitner, the general manager of the Seasons in Lawrence, sounded enthusiastic about the new ownership, and said he considers customers family.
“Seasons is looking to welcome our family back into the store for a long future, all through the backing and guidance of the Bistritzky family, who brings years of experience in customer interface and the kosher food manufacturing and distributing industries,” Kreitner said. “When the family comes back, we’re ready to start the party!”
Have an opinion about kosher food shopping in the Five Towns? Send your letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.