More than 200 families in Stamford Hill have benefited from a new money-saving venture perfectly timed for the economic downturn: a mini-market providing basic amenities at wholesale prices.
The store, Low Cost Living, is directed only at customers in kollel (full-time Torah study) and those with large families. In order to keep overheads low, it has no phone, does not deliver and is run entirely by volunteers. And as they are from the kollel, opening hours are restricted to evenings and Sundays.
Low Cost Living has been operating in a low-profile capacity from a garage for around six months. Small amounts of funding from members of the community enabled its organisers to rent a space on Manor Road, which opened at the beginning of September.
Before the shop opened, questionnaires were sent out in Stamford Hill to determine who might be eligible as customers. Customers are usually asked to identify themselves, where necessary, at the cash till.
When the JC visited, there was almost nothing to suggest that there was a supermarket behind the nondescript door, set back among a row of residential properties. There is, as yet, no shop sign and the only formal publicity has been a mention in Hamodia, the strictly Orthodox newspaper. But news has spread quickly, with many passers-by pointing out the anonymous frontage of the "kollel shop" to each other.
Recent cost-of-living rises have made the service particularly valued. "I think it's a wonderful idea," said one customer. "It really benefits bigger families."
The busy store sells Israeli as well as UK products, from non-perishable foodstuffs such as cereal, tinned vegetables and long-life juice to cleaning products and plastic plates and utensils. Clearly marked shelves offer a litre of oil at 34p cheaper than the usual supermarket price, and Gefen mayonnaise with a 48p reduction. One volunteer said they are considering expanding to house fridges, so that they can stock meat and fish.
The chief executive of Agudas Israel Housing Association, Ita Symons, said she had seen nothing like it previously in Stamford Hill.
"This is an extremely forward-thinking idea," she said. "This is another sterling example of a sustainable, compassionate and caring community."