When the owner of Suffolk County’s only kosher butcher successfully challenged New York State’s kosher law in 2000, Brian Yarmeisch won a victory for non-Orthodox Jews. The law, he claimed, had been tailored to Orthodox standards of kashrut, and Yarmeisch’s kosher certifier was a local Conservative rabbi.
It was his 15 minutes of fame — but it cost him dearly.
On Friday, his shop, Commack Kosher Caterers Deli & Market, unexpectedly closed its doors for good.
Yarmeisch told The Jewish Week Friday that he had “no comment” when asked about the closing.
But he told several shoppers that he did not have enough customers to sustain his business.
“I didn’t fail the community, the community failed me,” he told one customer.
Robert Dinerstein, Yarmeisch’s longtime attorney, said Commack Kosher was started by Yarmeisch’s father in the 1950s. But he said it quickly lost customers after it was slapped with a “baseless violation” in 1993 by a state kosher law enforcement inspector.
“They got a delivery of boneless turkey thighs and the receipt contained the OU label and said the product had been soaked and salted,” Dinerstein said. “The kosher inspector said [each individual] package had to have the same OU/soaked and salted label — even though this is the way the packages had been [routinely] shipped to all their customers — and gave the store a citation for more than $10,000.
“The citation was right before Pesach [Passover] and it cost the store a substantial portion of its business,” Dinerstein added. “A local rabbi pronounced the store unreliable and it never really recovered.”
In recent years, Commack Kosher moved just a few doors away to a store that was half the size. When the store still did not do enough business to sustain the families of both Brian and his brother, Jeffrey, Jeffrey left to pursue other work.
In one final attempt to save the business, Yarmeisch kept part of the store open on Saturdays but closed the butcher/meat section in deference to the Sabbath.
Dinerstein said that until a week before he closed the store, Yarmeisch was attempting to sell the business to no avail.