Karsh Reality

Answering to a higher power shouldn't lead to lower profits. But for one Valley kosher bakery, observing Orthodox Jewish rules has proved too costly.

After a six-month "experiment," Karsh's Bakery has reopened for business on Saturdays. Karsh's, a 40-year-old Valley fixture for kosher foods, decided last September to close on the Jewish Sabbath, in compliance with a request from the Phoenix Va' 'Ad Hakasruth.

The Hakasruth inspects kitchens practicing under the strict requirements of kosher dietary law. Orthodox Jews do not work on the Sabbath, and food baked on that day is not purely kosher.

While the intentions were honorable, ultimately, the numbers just didn't add up. The reopening was strictly a business decision, says Karsh's owner, Arnie Gardner, who estimates that up to 60 percent of his customers are not Jewish. "I thought maybe people would shift their buying habits and shop on Friday and Sunday, but it just doesn't work that way. I lost about 15 percent of my retail business."

And actually, for all except the most Orthodox Jews (only about 1,500 members of the Valley's 80,000-member Jewish community, estimates the Hakasruth), the change simply means returned convenience. A sign in Karsh's window states that while the Hakasruth no longer will supervise the bakery, "[Karsh's] will, however, continue using the finest kosher ingredients in all our products."

As always at Karsh's, different ovens, counters, mixing bowls and utensils keep the dairy items separate from any other food products, one of the dietary laws of Judaism. Prior to closing on Saturdays, the Hakasruth didn't inspect very stringently, anyway, Gardner adds. Currently, no other Valley kosher commercial kitchen is closed on the Sabbath.

Rabbi David Rebibo of the Hakasruth did not return several calls from New Times.

Gardner says this arrangement is a compromise. "We can't be strictly kosher and be open on Saturday," he says. "It would be like being a little bit pregnant."

Taste-less of the Nation: Sunday's Taste of the Nation fund raiser featured an orgy of food from restaurants such as Arcadia, Christopher's, Eddie Matney's, Restaurant Hapa, Lon's at the Hermosa, Mary Elaine's, Medizona, Michael's, Rancho Pinot Grill, Tarbell's and Vincent Guerithault on Camelback. Yet, overheard, one guy chatting on a cell phone: "So, for dinner tonight, you want Taco Bell?"

The tasting and wine event raised money for Save the Children Arizona, Waste Not, Westside Food Bank and United Food Bank. Good stuff. But what was up with charging VIP guests -- who had forked over $125 per ticket -- an extra $3 for a plastic tray on which to carry their food? What's next, a surcharge for silverware?


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