Did you know Jewish Detroiters founded the largest chain of grocery stores in Israel?
At the risk of repeating myself, as I have written several times before, when doing research in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History for one topic, I always find another interesting story on another subject. In this case, while during research for my recent “Looking Back” on the history of Jews and supermarkets, I also learned that Jewish Detroiters founded the largest chain of grocery stores in Israel.
Super-Sol, or Shufra-Sal in Hebrew, is the preeminent supermarket chain in Israel today. It is one of the largest companies in Israel with about 250 stores that employ more than 12,000 people.
In 1957, two Detroiters living in Israel — Herbert Yahiel Hordes and Alan Feinberg — decided that it was a good time to open that nation’s first supermarket. They recognized a serious need to lower the cost of food there.
It is also interesting to note that, per his obituary in the Oct. 25, 2007, issue of the JN, Hordes fought in Israel’s War for Independence in 1948. One can assume that he personally understood the critical role that food played in the young nation’s history.
Feinberg and Hordes had a great idea, but they needed expertise and, most important, investors. The Jewish community in Detroit provided both. A front-page story of the JN on April 5, 1957, “Detroiters Join Israelis’ Project for Supermarkets,” tells the story.
Along with Feinberg and Hordes, the founders of Super-Sol were a who’s-who of Jewish supermarket leaders in Detroit. John E. Lurie, president of the Wrigley chain, was an original investor, and his brother, Nathan Lurie, was a co-founder as well as first chairman of the board of Super-Sol. Tom and Al Borman from the Farmer Jack supermarket chain also provided support. Other investors from Jewish Detroit included Paul Zuckerman (founder of grocery product Velvet Peanut Butter), Irwin Cohn and Sam Frankel.
There were also supporters from outside of Detroit. A story in the Jan. 24, 1957, issue of the JN cites a key investor was Bertram Loeb, owner of Super-Sol Ltd. of Canada, a supermarket chain with 100 stores.
The first Super-Sol opened in Israel in 1958, and it was a huge success. A year later, a report in the Nov. 6, 1959, issue of the JN stated that four additional stores would soon open in Israel. A photo shows Loeb, Feinberg and Hordes with Mrs. Ed Sullivan cutting the ribbon at the opening of the original Super-Sol.
In 1962, Super-Sol won the Kaplan Prize for “pioneering efforts in Israel’s industrial undertakings.” This prestigious award was named for Eliezer Kaplan, Israel’s first finance minister.
I also liked the JN story on Dec. 16, 1988, about Super-Sol’s annual American “Food Fair.” During this special promotion, Israelis could buy such delicacies as Skippy peanut butter, Hellman’s mayonnaise and Duncan Hines cake mixes.
To say the least, Super-Sol was an immense success in Israel. And, Jewish Detroiters’ prowess in the grocery business provided the crucial foundation for Super-Sol.
By the way, in the 1960s, Detroit had its own Super-Sol market. Owned by Morris Berg, it was located on West Seven Mile Road.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.