Commerce Township Kroger eliminates kosher selections

A customer unhappy that he could not find fresh kosher deli meat at his local Kroger’s store, a former Hiller’s Market, contacted the Jewish News to investigate.

Hiller’s Markets, a local grocery company most recently run by Jewish owner Jim Hiller, enjoyed a nearly 75-year run in Metro Detroit. Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, concluded its purchase of the seven-store chain in July 2015, closing the Hiller’s Market store near one of its own locations. The remaining six stores were rebranded as Kroger. The original, outmoded Hiller’s Market in Berkley wasn’t part of the deal.

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Steve Achtman, a 28-year resident of Walled Lake, prefers shopping at the Kroger supermarket on 14 Mile at Haggerty in Commerce Township. Noticing that the fresh kosher deli meats were being eliminated, Achtman was told the store is “redoing their display cases, and if they have room they will put kosher deli meat back in.”

Not placated, Achtman said, “How does a Kroger store within the Jewish community make this change without questions from the Jewish community? Kroger buys out Hiller and they start making changes?”

According to Rachel Hurst, consumer affairs manager at Kroger’s corporate office in Novi, the change is strictly a business decision.

Achtman’s local Kroger store is “going through a miniature remodel to be more consumer-friendly,” Hurst said.

Management constantly re-evaluates the use of store counter space, attempting “to stock products consumers are wanting to buy and make the best use of our real estate. We have to be good stewards of our company,” she said.

While the 14 Mile Kroger store offers “many other kosher products, such as fresh kosher chicken and beef, and Hebrew National-brand hot dogs,” Hurst said the “fresh kosher meats we had been carrying were not selling in the quantities we wanted. We were losing more product than we were selling.”

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The store’s selection of prepackaged kosher lunch meat was also discontinued for not selling up to expectations, but should be coming back. Hurst said merchandising staff in Novi are currently looking into vendor options.

Kosher prepackaged lunch meats and sausages can be found by the dairy department at the Kroger supermarket at 4395 Orchard Lake Road at Lone Pine in West Bloomfield.

“The only kosher deli meat we carry is Hebrew National salami for slicing,” said an employee at the West Bloomfield Kroger.

The store manager said, “We have a free-standing case with fresh beef. Another case contains fresh Empire-brand chicken that is delivered two to three times a week.”

The manager said individual Kroger stores “don’t have a say in what we carry, but we pride ourselves on being receptive if there is a customer request for an item we don’t currently carry. We have to go through a customer request form online. Then corporate calls us and deals with the customer request.”

The manager, formerly employed by Hiller’s Market, said, “I’m sure that for some kosher items that didn’t sell, they’ve gone by the wayside. But that goes for any product. We are always in flux with our display cases, changing what we carry to improve the customer’s experience.”

For now, Achtman is purchasing his kosher meat at Johnny Pomodoro’s Fresh Market, 32906 Middlebelt, in Farmington Hills. Some other options include Harvard Row Kosher Meat & Poultry, 6221 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield; Noah’s Marketplace, 21800 W. 11 Mile, Southfield; and One Stop Kosher Food Market, 25155 Greenfield, Southfield.

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