Friday, May 11, 2007

A Passover Story and the Charlotte Observer

For the past few years I have been hanging out at my cousin's store and deli called Gleiberman's Kosher Mart. Turned out when I moved to Charlotte over a dozen years ago, I had some relatives I had never met. My grandfather came over from Poland (near Bialystock) in the early part of the 1900's as a teenager. He made the voyage on the Aquitania (the same ship, JFK took to England just prior to WWII to see his father who was ambassador the England). He had a sister...but somehow there was a rift and the family grew apart.

Well, I took an interest in Kosher Mart. It was a unique business, getting foods shipped on trucks from Brookly twice a week. He was the only Kosher Market between Atlanta and Richmond, VA. My cousin Jeffrey is like an old Jewish man even though he is about 40 years old. He is brilliant about kosher foods and distribution and lvoes to talk to the customers.

After my first few years of visiting his store, when the internet/ecommerce time came I wanted to study and find out how one day this might be turned into an online store. Well this year after about $1 million dollar renovation of a new store near Shalom Park they opened up a beautiful deli and market with a full service restaurant. Passover is their busiest time of year as the kosher customers need to clear their homes of food that is not kosher for Passover and purchase food for the family dinners called Sedars which typically take place on the first and second nights. It is the celebration of the Jewish People's Exodus from Egypt.

Well, somewhere back in February I had told Robert (who manages the business), that I could help out if they needed it. Due to my flexible schedule I decided I could help from 10 am to about 2 pm each day. I basically ran the cashier and was Maitre d' for the restaurant on the days leading up to Passover.

I learned so much. Each day the orthodox rabbis would appear from the local synagogue to make sure every thing there was Glatt Kosher, the strictest dietary rules followed.

I learned things I never knew before. For example, when bagging groceries, dairy had to go into separate grocery bags from meat items, even though they were in their packaging. For some strict followers, food that was kosher (but NOT kosher for Passover) could not touch areas where the Kosher for Passover food was. I learned this when one customer held the grocery items over the counter and would not put them down..and asked me to scan them and put them in a bag.

I also learned I needed to wash my hands if I was stocking shelves in the area of regular kosher foods that were not Kosher for Paasover so again I didn't taint the Passover foods.

A few days before Passover, a reporter and photographer from the Charlotte Observer Newspaper came in and was following one of kosher marts customers for nearly a week to see how she prepared for Passover and what recipes they used. The reporter happened to be the food editor (I found out later). They snapped a few pictures and then there was one of the grocery cart overflowing with items ready for checkout at my cashier. They told us that the article would be in the newspaper on April 4th. I figured it would be a n article inside the paper somewhere tucked inside a lifestyle section.

On the morning of April 4th, I went outside to retrieve my newspaper and brought it in and put it on the kitchen table. I usually skim the front page, read the sports section and then look at the editorial pages and letters to the editor. I never saw the article. I started my work day and made some calls and did some writing. At lunchtime, I made a sandwich and sat at the kitchen table. I flipped open th newspaper to see what sections I hadn't read. To my surprise, their was a complete section called "Food" and the picture of the customer with me at the register was taking up about one third of the front page. This was publicity I never sought and never thought about...most of Charlotte must have seen the picture because friends from all over town told me for weeks thay saw me.

As I tell my children and most people I meet, Take a road less travelled and enjoy the journey. (Notes of interest: By the way, what cashier has a high definition television 6 feet from where they work...and that was approximately $450.00 worth of groceries.)

Is there "Space Available"?

I have been pursuing the idea of helping some friends and associates with producing their books, screenplays, treatments and other concepts into film, radio, internet tv, and anything else appropriate.

One of my fellow Lake Norman Toastmasters has had an interesting journey of his own. Sid Davis showed up at one of our meetings at the old Holiday Inn in Cornelius, NC one Wednesday night a few years ago. He was a USAirways airline mechanic during the day and a writer and former radio disc jockey. He also is a low handicap golfer, something that helps in the land of golf courses of North Carolina.

In Toastmasters, it in so many ways becomes the catalyst or foundation for a new life's journey. In Sid's case, he started to take on the role of JokeMaster to warm up our club at the meetings and then ended up giving some very funny and well written speeches while moving through the basic manual speeches of the ice breaker, organize your speech, using your voice, show what you mean, etc. Sid also worked hard and stepped up to the plate to help the club.

Over time he began to give "humor workshops" to our fellow Toastmasters both in our club and at other clubs in the region. He then due to some unforeseen situation with health issues and career issues of our current leaders, became the President of our club (after only being a member for less than a year).
He came in just after me which at the time were tough shoes to fill as I had just been awarded the Helen Yandle award for being the Top Club President in the state.

Over the next year, Sid started to take comedy classes at the Comedy Zone downtown. The combination of his training in Toastmasters and now in comedy made him the perfect candidate to emcee the comedy zone shows. (He started the weekday shows).

At the same time, he began to write a book about his experiences based upon his behind-the-scenes experiences as an airline employee and the concept of identity theft. The book he wrote was called "Space Available"