David and Gail Ehrlich may sell cookies, but they see themselves as a purveyors of more than just baked goods.
moved our emphasis off selling products; our emphasis now is on selling
smiles and hugs,” says Ehrlich, the co-owner with his wife, Gail, of Gili’s Goodies. The
company, which opened in 2001 out of the Ehrlichs’ home, has expanded
beyond their wildest dreams and they now spend all year shipping out
baskets of baked goods to homesick yeshiva and seminary students.
58-year-old New York native, who now lives in Efrat, never imagined he
would make his living selling cakes and cookies. But his job as a
filmmaker wasn’t providing enough income, and things were even more
difficult during the second intifada. In an attempt to boost morale, the
residents of Gush Etzion staged a production of Joseph and the Amazing
Technicolor Dreamcoat and asked David’s wife, Gail (or Gili), to bake
cookies to sell during intermission.
The show was a hit but the
cookies were an even bigger one, and the couple began their own business
focusing on selling their wares online and in stores. They soon
realized that the biggest – and most rewarding – market was getting
people in North America to send gift baskets to their friends and family
living in Israel.
“We are shlihim [messengers] for people
outside of Israel who come to us for everything,” says Ehrlich, noting
that at least 65 percent of his sales come from parents sending packages
to their children who are studying in Israel for the year.
goal is for parents to feel like they’re here with their kid when they
can’t be here with their kid,” says Ehrlich. “Mom says, ‘My kid sounded
terrible on the phone, please bring her a package.’” He also keeps mom
and dad happy by taking photos and videos of the teens receiving their
gifts with big smiles – one of the reasons he loves doing deliveries
“I love the smiles and I love the videos,” says the
father of four. “A lot of the kids are, ‘Wow my mom really thought of
me!’” And he even tries to fulfill special requests by parents – “except
for during Purim, when we’re totally swamped.”
“A mom once
called and said, ‘My son is sick in bed, can you get chicken soup to
him?’” Ehrlich recalls. “We don’t really do it but my wife made soup and
we delivered it,” making the mother eternally grateful.
if we can, to go the extra mile for the parent, to make that connection
to their kid,” he says. “They’re 18 years old, its their first time
away from home and mommy misses them and they miss mommy.”
and Gail also hope to target other North American customers who don’t
have children studying in Israel for the year. “Birthdays,
anniversaries, hagim [holidays], shiva or smahot [joyous occasions]” –
most people have friends and family living in the country who would be
thrilled to receive a basket, he says.
And Gili’s Goodies has
added a separate prong of its business, offering baskets for sale
through their website to distribute to lone soldiers or children at
SHALVA, The Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children
“American moms relate to lone soldiers and it strikes a
nice chord that we can make that connection,” he says. At first they
were distributing packages to soldiers they knew – friends of their
children who served in the IDF – but they later joined up with the
Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center to reach a wider group.
During Operation Cast Lead in 2009, Gili’s Goodies partnered with HonestReporting.
com to deliver 18,000 cookies to soldiers who were about to cross the Gaza border.
soldiers come to pick up [the packages], but I went down to the Gaza
border to deliver the truck,” recalls Ehrlich. “We were handing them out
as they were putting on their gear, about to go into battle. I started
crying – it was truly the highlight of my soldier project.”
now David and Gail are gearing up for Purim – their craziest time of the
year, when they sell about 1,500 gift baskets and 2,500 soldier gifts.
“We don’t sleep; we go from this small mom-and-pop operation to hiring eight to 10 employees for two weeks,” says Ehrlich.
even when the yeshiva and seminary students go home for the summer, the
Ehrlichs keep busy with teens who are here on summer programs, from
“NCSY to USY, Young Judaea, Sulam.”
“There are four weeks a year when we can breathe,” Ehrlich says. “The last two weeks of June and last two weeks of August.” To
order packages for family and friends in Israel for Purim, or any other
time and to donate packages to the Michael Levin Lone Soldiers Center
go to their website www.gilisgoodies.com, or call 1-866-721-7292Know someone who should be featured in “Flavor of the Month?” Email email@example.com with suggestions.