Business Scene

David Wiessman is reaching out to the haredi community due to their anger that some of the branches in his chain of supermarkets remain open on Shabbat.

David Wiessman 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
David Wiessman 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
LIFE IS getting tougher day by day for David Wiessman, who heads the Alon Group, which controls supermarket chains Blue Square, AM:PM, Mega, Mega Ba'Ir and Shefa Shuk. A few weeks ago some over-zealous haredi rabbis, offended that one of his AM:PM stores that is located near a Belz yeshiva is open on Shabbat, decided that they would force him to close all of his stores that are open on Shabbat by imposing a boycott. The boycott has been heating up to the extent that it is also affecting Shefa Shuk, which caters to the haredi community. Many haredi shoppers abided by the boycott orders, and the Alon Group's profits in all its enterprises took a sharp nose-dive. On Monday, Wiessman took out large newspaper advertisements that said: "The Alon Group works on behalf of the whole Israeli public." When the Alon Group purchased the AM:PM chain a year and a half ago, he explained, it was a chain that was open on Shabbat and carried non-kosher meat and fish products. Without anyone approaching them, according to the advertisement, the Alon Group, out of a sense of Jewish consciousness and respect for Jewish sensitivities, got rid of all the non-kosher products and did not stock any hametz during Pessah; branches that were adjacent to religious neighborhoods were closed on Shabbat. Throughout all the years of its existence, according to the text of the advertisement, the Alon Group has demonstrated understanding, discussion and fair competition. Some journalists in the Hebrew press interpreted this as a hint that Supersol, controlled by Nochi Dankner, is exercising unfair competition, and may be behind the boycott. Dankner, through his philanthropy, has a close relationship with various influential people in the haredi community, but that does not necessarily mean that he is in any way responsible for Wiessman's plight. The advertisement says the Alon Group wants to continue a dialogue with the haredi community, "which is very dear and important to us," and to which, through all its subsidiaries, has made substantial contributions to the needy, in addition to making contributions to the needy in the secular community. "The side that comprehends within the haredi community knows that we have done more than was expected to avoid unnecessary disputes among the Israeli public, and we thank them for their support. We will continue to be there for each and every one of you from our 600 points of sale in Israel, and to serve you with love and competitive prices." The advertisement proved to be a pointless exercise in the attempt to restore harmony. The haredi rabbis responded by declaring that none of the fruit and vegetables in the Alon Group supermarkets could be considered kosher. That's a strange thing, because they were kosher the day before, the week before and the month before. Suddenly they don't meet the criteria for kashrut. What perturbs Wiessman, his friends and colleagues, is that there were no mass objections to the AM:PM stores until recently. Why did the haredi rabbis wait so long to impose a boycott? Why didn't they do so as soon as the acquisition was made, or even while negotiations for the purchase were taking place? To borrow from the bard: Something's rotten in the State of Israel. THE LUXURY residential project Hayarkon 96, within sniffing distance of the Tel Aviv seafront, is to be managed by the Dan Hotel chain. The deal was signed and sealed last week by Faire Fund chairman Shlomo Grofman, Dan Hotels CEO Ami Hirschtein and CFO Noah Greenwald. Grofman anticipates that people who purchase apartments in the project will be mostly foreigners who want to have a permanent toehold in Israel, plus a few very affluent Israelis. In order to give buyers added value on their acquisitions, said Grofman, he had decided to enter into an agreement with the Dan chain to ensure that residents of Hayarkon 96 would receive first-class VIP treatment from the Dan Tel Aviv. The apartment building will integrate modern living into an historic Bauhaus structure. Prices of apartments range from $15,000 to $25,000 per square meter. AMERICAN INVESTORS continue to have confidence in the Israeli market. A group of American entrepreneurs headed by David Bardin is investing $4 million in the launch of a chain of gourmet-style, frozen yogurt stores around the country. The first of the initial five stores is due to open soon after Pessah on Tel Aviv's Ibn Gvirol Street, where there are already several ice cream parlors, some of which also sell frozen yogurt. This one, according to Bardin, will appeal to the diet conscious, because its fat content is only 2 percent. Eventually, Bardin and his partners plan to have 40 stores across the country, under the brand name of Kafoo, which is the Hebrew word for frozen, but sounds somewhat more exotic in English. BUSINESS HAD not been going too well for cosmetics queen Pnina Rosenbloom. But last week there was a spirit of optimism in the air when the Industry and Trade Ministry gave her a second permit for her school of beauty and cosmetics. She had already received approval in March for the school in Ramat Gan, and now she also has approval for the one at Haifa's Checkpost Junction. Rosenbloom, with her youthful looks, combined with a slim and agile figure, even though she is past 50, is her own best advertisement. THE NEW sales manager in the Linox research and development division at Matrix is Nurit Hurwitz, 28. She will be responsible for expanding JBoss and Red Hot operations in Israel. A graduate of Ariel College in Judea and Samaria, Hurwitz has a first degree in economics and business administration and an MBA from the Open University. THE SAKAL Group has announced the appointment of Shira Bankhalter, 30, to the position of marketing manager. She will be responsible for planning and implementing the group's marketing and publicity strategies and will act as spokesperson for the group in addition to managing its advertising. She will also launch new branches and new products on behalf of the Sakal chain of stores. In her most recent position Bankhalter spent two-and-a-half years as head of advertising and publicity at Pelephone. An Oxford University graduate, she holds an MBA.