Jeffrey Ingber, new manager of The Crown Supermarket in West Hartford, is looking to make shopping at the store more of an experience.
By Stacey Dresner, Connecticut Jewish Ledger
How many potato latkes can you eat in 20 minutes?
On Dec. 18, beginning at 6:30 p.m., The Crown Supermarket will hold its inaugural Latke Eating Contest. The first 15 to sign up in adult and youth categories will not only get the chance to win a $25 gift certificate but win the honor of being the “fresser” who can down the most latkes.
This contest is just the kind of event that new Director of Operations Jeffrey Ingber plans to hold at The Crown on a regular basis.
“Shopping is a lot like dining – it is experience-based,” Ingber said. “So we want to create what I would say is experience-based shopping, to really enhance the shopping experience, with things like product tastings. We would like to make it so that a visit to The Crown is fun – something your kids will look forward to.”
Ingber, who has spent the last 30-plus years in the food and beverage industry, arrived at The Crown just before Thanksgiving to help out, but officially began on Dec. 1.
“We are delighted to have Jeffrey Ingber join the management team as the director of operations,” said Ann Pava, a Crown board member. “Jeffrey comes to us with a unique combination of expertise in all the areas that we need to help perfect and grow the Crown into ‘The Good Food Store’ for today’s consumer and for years to come!”
Ingber walked through the doors of The Crown for the first time this past August.
“I was very impressed with the overall eye-appeal, with the cleanliness of the store and with the overall Jewish feel. While it is open to everybody, it is able to maintain its tremendous Jewish feel,” he said.
Ingber has lived in Providence, RI, with his wife, Marcie, for the past 20 years. They have two children – Chana, a sophomore at Stern College and Yonah, a sophomore at Classical High School in Providence.
Originally from New City, NY, just outside of Monsey, Ingber grew up in a Conservative household. It was while attending Johnson & Wales University in Providence where he received a bachelor of arts in hotel, restaurant and institutional management in 1993, that he became Orthodox.
Describing himself as having the “hospitality gene,” he says he was always interested in working in the food and beverage industry.
“I think the food part of it was appealing at first, then the customer service aspect kind of took over,” Ingber said. “Over the past 30 years I have really developed a passion for making sure that whatever constituency I’m serving, the outcome has to be perfect.”
Ingber opened his own catering company, Jeff’s Josher Kitchen, in 1993 after graduating from Johnson & Wales. The company provided “high-end kosher food and catering” for the Greater Rhode Island Jewish community and was the exclusive contract provider of kosher meals to Brown University, Miriam Hospital, and the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island.
For 10 years, starting in 2001, he served as training manager for Chili’s Grill and Bar.
Most recently, he was food and beverage manager for NewBridge on the Charles, an independent living center for seniors in Dedham, MA, part of Hebrew SeniorLife.
Besides making The Crown more of an experience for shoppers, Ingber says he has two more goals.
One is to “maintain the Jewish flavor of the store while updating the product availability to a slightly more modern Jewish flavor,” he said.
An example of this is three “boutique” kosher sausage lines that Ingber touted.
One, Jack’s Gourmet Sausage is already available at The Crown. The other two – The Wandering Que and Wasserman and Lemberger – are on their way to Crown shelves.
“It’s handcrafted, artisan stuff,” he said.
Another goal is to enhance customer service.
“In the short term, I’m not sure we can get there, but in the long term we are talking about readily available eCommerce and home delivery,” he explained.
He also hopes groups will take advantage of The Crown’s dining area, located in the front of the store. While families can be found filling the tables after school and sports practices, Ingber has reached out to local rabbis about holding Lunch and Learn sessions there. Already a chapter of Hadassah is planning to hold an upcoming meeting in Crown’s dining area after hours.
“The Crown has been a pillar of the West Hartford Jewish community for over 70 years, but it is open to everybody. Non-Jewish people shop here – I think they understand the Jewish flair and flavor of the store. It’s non-denominational, meaning there is something for every single person to buy, whether it is traditional Tabachnick kosher soup or handcrafted glatt kosher sausage, a corned beef and pastrami sandwich or our world-famous tuna salad,” said Ingber. “My deli staff knows the names of 75 percent of their customers – some of them even know what they want before they get to the counter. And we want everybody to come and know that The Crown is here for them.”
For more information about the Latke Eating Contest, visit the Facebook event page. To register as a contestant, email [email protected].
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Connecticut Jewish Ledger LedgerOnline. Republished with permission.