The Dunkin’ Donuts on Pleasant Valley Way in West Orange is opting out of the kosher business as of April 15.
Owner Samir Shah cited dropping revenue as the reason.
Shah’s store became kosher under the supervision of the Vaad Harabonim of MetroWest NJ in October 2012. At the time, Vaad copresident Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler was thrilled and told a reporter that the kosher Dunkin’ Donuts had been in the works for eight years.
“Things went really well until September 2013,” said Shah. “Our customer counts started dropping around Rosh Hashana and then people just were not coming. It dropped so dramatically that I went into negative numbers. It was really a big setback.”
His disappointment was obvious in an interview.
“I feel so bad because I worked really hard for seven or eight years to get this store kosher,” he said. “And in eight months I knew I had to get out.”
He added that on Oct. 14 he held “a free doughnut day to celebrate one year of kosher business. Do you know how many doughnuts I gave out? I thought I would be mobbed. I only gave out 60 doughnuts.”
Shah said his regular kosher customers number between 10 and 20. “I feel so bad for them,” he said. But a handful of regulars is not enough.
The main problem for Shah was a decline in customers. Going kosher meant he lost many of the regulars who like Dunkin’ Donuts menu items like sandwiches made with bacon and ham; those customers, in his words, “are now driving somewhere else.” He needed to replace them with customers from the Jewish community. But in the end, he was unable to do so.
In the last three months alone, he’s down nearly 5,000 customers from the same period last year, and his revenue for that period has dropped by more than $13,000. “What I used to order every week, I now order every other week,” Shah said.
In addition to the customer base dropping, his food costs to meet kosher standards are higher, and he has to pay monthly kosher supervision fees. In the end, he said, “This is a business.”
The MetroWest Vaad issued a memo to the community on March 27 with the update and concluded, “We thank Sam for his service to our community.”
In a phone conversation with NJ Jewish News, Zwickler said, “Naturally we’re disappointed. We certainly enjoyed having it, but we have other establishments that will continue to serve the community, and we will continue to support them. We hope Mr. Shah will reconsider, but we understand that he has to do what’s good for him from a business sense.”
Zwickler said of Shah, “He’s a very gracious guy, and we had a very nice relationship.”
And, Shah noted, “Rabbi Zwickler has become a dear friend.”