Eli Dinerman has announced that he plans to open the first dedicated kosher wine shop in the Baltimore area next month, in an existing brick and mortar building on Reisterstown Road, in lower Pikesville on the Baltimore County side of the city county line.
Application has been made to the Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners and that approval is the final step before the opening of Baltimore’s first pure play kosher wine shop.
Kosher wine is a market niche. For the unenlightened, kosher wine is made in precisely the same way as ‘regular’ wine. The only difference is that there is rabbinical oversight during the process and that the wine is only handled “by Sabbath-observant Jews.”
This is going to be a Kosher wine shop (i.e., they will Not sell non-Kosher wine). There will be limited beer and spirits with special Kosher certification, but no cooler as is often found in retail outlets.
The new wine shop has received wide support from the Jewish community.
The shop will be closed on Friday night and Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) and also on Sunday (as required by County law) and on Jewish holidays. The pure play on kosher alcoholic beverages and that it will be closed on what would be peak hours for another package good store has resulted in no known opposition from other merchants in the area. If this license went to someone else, they would likely be a direct competitor of existing licensees.
Baltimore has 2 kosher supermarkets (including Seven Mile, one of the largest kosher supermarkets in the country), 4 kosher bakeries, 2 kosher butchers, and at least 24 kosher restaurants, but no dedicated kosher wine shop.
Other communities with a smaller Jewish population than Baltimore have kosher wine shops, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. There are more than 50 kosher wine shops in New York state.
Nearby Baltimore County retailers carry between 50 and 200 varieties of kosher wine (many only at Passover holiday time), while the nearest kosher wine shop in Philadelphia carries over 800. This shop will help the County and State capture tax dollars currently lost because, anecdotally we know many Baltimore kosher wine purchasers travel to Lakewood, New Jersey for its selection; there is a daily bus where one can observe cases of kosher wine coming back to Baltimore. In 2014, the Maryland General considered HB 830 that would have allowed Maryland consumers access to those other wines, but the compromise that saw the bill withdrawn fell apart and today, the vast majority of kosher wines are still not available to Maryland consumers.
According to a 2020 report by the Orthodox Union, the leading organization that certifies food products as kosher, the kosher wine market is growing at a rate of 20% per year, with over 2,500 kosher wine varieties now available from growers across the world. This shop will strive to carry 1,000 of those varieties before the Rosh Hashanah holiday this fall.
That wholesale distributors will soon make 1,000 kosher wines available to all retailers in Maryland, who will share in the larger market opportunity that will benefit all, in addition to educating and elevating a more sophisticated kosher wine populous.
There is no doubt a need for a dedicated kosher wine shop. A 2020 Brandeis University study found there is an increase of 11% in the number of Jewish households in the Baltimore area in the last 10 years. So this is a growing market, especially in the Orthodox Jewish community that is at least 21% of those households. Of 95,400 Jews in this market, 57% are in the Pikesville, Park Heights, Mt. Washington, Owings Mills, and Reisterstown area, within 5 miles of the new shop.
This wine shop will appeal to far more than only Orthodox Jews, and while there will finally be a local retail alcoholic beverage outlet for those Orthodox who will only buy kosher wine only handled by Sabbath observant Jews, with 83% of Baltimore Jews attending a Passover seder each year, there is an appeal for kosher wine among the broader Jewish population, including Conservative and Reform Jews who may not otherwise keep a kosher household.
The wine shop, to be located at 302 Reisterstown Road in a vacant retail space in a challenged area of lower Pikesville that will benefit from the revitalization, will be the answer to Eli Dinerman’s long term hopes. He relocated his family to Pikesville from Brooklyn in search of a business opportunity and better lifestyle for his wife and children. And while he is the chief compliance officer at an ambulance service, at the same time teaching CPR courses, including teaching at a local community college, the 31 year old with an MBA saw this need when the wine shop in his old Brooklyn neighborhood carries nearly 1,000 kosher wines, but the wine shop nearest his new home carried maybe 50.
Eli Dinerman has made application to the Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners and approval by the panel is the final hurdle in opening Baltimore’s first dedicated kosher wine shop. The hearing is on March 15. Watch this blog for the hearing result and ideally an opening date.