For weeks, consumers who frequent the Seasons Kosher supermarket chain took to social media to report bare shelves, particularly in the meat department, at the company’s eight locations — including the one that opened in Baltimore in 2017.
Last week, kosherguru.com reported that the chain allegedly owes roughly $30 million to vendors and other creditors.
So, it came as no surprise that shoppers expressed relief Aug. 29 when Seasons Baltimore posted photos of shelves fully stocked with meat on their official Facebook page.
An inside source at Seasons Baltimore, however, alleges that the photos are misleading.
This source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, said Seasons stores work with local vendors to stock many items, such as produce, fish, and some deli supplies, but all Seasons stores have the same meat vendor — Meat Maven. The source said Meat Maven is paid directly by Seasons’s corporate office, but the payments have not been made and large debts have accrued.
The source said the Aug. 29 restock, delivered by Meat Maven, was a last ditch attempt to get people in the door in hopes of finalizing a sale of the chain, and a way to make some sales as people stock up for the holidays.
Seasons Kosher operates supermarkets in Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey in addition to the Baltimore location. On Aug. 9, the Long Island Herald covered local concern over empty shelves at Seasons in Lawrence, New York, and quoted a statement from Seasons Kosher CEO Mayer Gold assuring customers that the company “look[s] forward to serving the neighborhood and the kosher consumer for many years to come.” Gold did not comment on any impending store closures, nor whether the company is seeking investors or purchasers, the Herald reported.
Still, reports of meat shortages at the Lawrence and Baltimore stores, as well as locations in Clifton, New Jersey, and Queens, New York, have persisted in discussions on Facebook group Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies. On Aug. 14, Yitzy Klink wrote to the group that the butcher section in the Scarsdale, New York, location “has been empty for two and a half weeks.”
Some in the Facebook group dismissed the alarm. Esther Tyorkin Pinkhasov said the shelves were fully stocked when she visited the Seasons in Lawrence on Aug. 12. On Aug. 14, Avrumy Floor commented that “the Lakewood [Seasons] is always full stocked [sic] with fresh items.”
On Aug. 27, however, Baltimore resident Zalman Kuperman visited his local Seasons and reported “the deli and meat sections are cleaned out, with just some hot dogs and sausages remaining.” No other sections of the store appeared out of the ordinary, he confirmed.
As of the posting of the photo by Seasons Baltimore on Aug. 29, Kol HaBirah has independently confirmed there is beef and chicken in stock in the store. Management at Seasons Kosher did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
The first Seasons supermarket opened in 2011 with the vision of providing a gourmet shopping and eating experience. Now the chain has an online delivery service, five stores in New York, two in New Jersey, and one in Baltimore.
Gary Poretsky, a bankruptcy attorney based in Baltimore, said he is not familiar with the inner workings at Seasons but he has seen businesses expand too fast and run into financial trouble as a result. For a chain in deep debt to bounce back, there are two crucial steps: first, an infusion of money to keep the lights on and the vendors paid; and second, faith from creditors in the business’s long-term success. Without addressing short-term cash flow issues — whether by selling off some stores or finding a new investor — Poretsky said it would be very difficult for a financially stressed business to live on.
So what’s next for Seasons in Baltimore, and indeed the entire Seasons supermarket chain? According to the source at Seasons Baltimore, no one at the store level has any clue.
To borrow another food chain’s slogan, consumers may have a while yet to wonder, “Where’s the beef?”
By Gabe Aaronson