By Catherine Sheffo
With several grocery stores along Route 1, it seems strange to make the 10-mile drive to Silver Spring, Md. on a weekday night, but more University of Maryland students seem to be making the trip to Shalom Kosher before Shabbat and other holidays, according to the store’s owners.
Shalom Kosher opened in October 2012 in Kemp Mill, a neighborhood known for its thriving Orthodox population, and is looking to attract more students from surrounding campuses.
The store is currently the closest all-Kosher grocery store to the university. It provides a full range of groceries including a deli, fresh produce, and a bakery, all of which comply with the strictest level of kosher standards.
Owner Larry Dekelbaum said that students come in occasionally but don’t make up a majority of customers. “Sometimes around the Jewish holiday times we see more students, usually around Wednesday or Thursday evenings,” he said, “I would like to see more.”
So far, knowledge of the store has spread by word of mouth with students relying on each other for rides and company on their weekly trips.
“I don’t know how I found out about it but I knew I needed kosher meat for a meal. Shalom was the closest place because I needed a lot of it because I was hosting 14 people,” said Michelle Hess, a junior accounting and information systems double major.
For other students who either don’t keep kosher or aren’t able to find rides, the distance between campus and the store forces them to take their shopping elsewhere.
“I don’t have a car on campus so it’s hard enough getting to the grocery store, let alone one in Silver Spring,” said sophomore journalism major Alex Stoller, “many of the grocery stores around here have kosher sections, it’s easier to go where I can do all my normal shopping.”
It is possible to take the metro and a combination of buses to the neighborhood of the store, but the metro website estimates the one-way travel time to be well over an hour.
Dekelbaum’s son, Justin Dekelbaum, a junior finance and supply chain management double major at the University of Maryland, helps his father run the store during his time off from classes.
He works 20 to 30 hours a week at the store during the school year doing everything from finding new products to stocking the floor to working with the business’s finances.
The energy that he pours into the store stems from a family tradition in the food business. His great, great grandfather worked in groceries and Justin plans to join the store full time upon graduation.
“I love working here,” he said, “I get a high every time I walk in the building.”
Both Dekelbaums emphasized that kosher doesn’t necessarily mean higher prices for consumers, just better quality. “We don’t want people to have to go somewhere else to save money,” Justin said.
The store carries traditional Jewish favorites like kugel, matzo balls, and challah as well as a full range of secular groceries like ethnic foods.
While location may be an inconvenience for some, observant students who depend on access to kosher foods appreciate having an option that does the work for them.
“It’s very helpful because when I go there I know everything will be hechshered and I don’t have to worry about something being kosher enough for someone,” Hess said. “You can just legit go down the aisle and get everything you need for a meal.”