Supply fears as Birmingham butcher shuts

By Simon Rocker, July 29, 2013

The closure of Birmingham’s sole kosher butcher has left a number of regional communities scrambling to find new supplies of meat and other supervised goods.

Gees — which ceased trading earlier this month after more than 45 years in the business — also delivered meat, challahs and other kosher products to Nottingham, Leicester, Cardiff and Oxford.

Owner Mark Gee even drove his refrigerated van on a 300-mile round trip once a month to the tiny Swansea community.

Birmingham Central Synagogue executive member Michael Abrams said: “I think the writing has been on the wall for 12 months. Running a retail business in today’s climate is not easy.”

Aliyah, as well as people moving from Birmingham to Manchester and London, had “eroded potential custom”, he added. “But there is still a vibrant Jewish community here that has to have a supply of kosher products.”

London business Lewco Pak has temporarily stepped into the breach, ferrying supplies of meat, bread and other products to the city.

“There have been a couple of meetings with rabbis and lay leaders,” Mr Abrams said. “Hopefully by the end of the week, we’ll have reached a conclusion about the various options we have been discussing.”

One possibility would be to run a shop on the redeveloped premises of the synagogue, which are due to reopen next month. Another London business, Kosher Deli, has agreed to supply Cardiff, which had been visited weekly by Gees.

“Kosher Deli have been very helpful and amenable,” said Cardiff United Synagogue chairman Geoffrey Goldberg. “They’ll be coming down fortnightly. We’ll have to train the community to place double the orders.”

Nottingham Hebrew Congregation president Lawrence Goodman said that it was considering what to
do next.

Residents had access to larger Jewish centres such as Manchester, London and Leeds and often shopped elsewhere when visiting relatives, he pointed out.

Supermarkets in the city — home to one of the largest Jewish student populations — had also been increasing their kosher stock over recent years.

“Morrisons have done a fantastic job trying to bring kosher food and meat to Nottingham,” Mr Goodman said. “They deserve credit for picking up the gauntlet.”

Mr Gee was unavailable for comment.

Last updated: 11:45am, July 29 2013