The bakery survives 70 years, but is no longer kosher certified
According to the notice emailed May 8, the bakery’s location at 4036 S. Braeswood Blvd., lost its kosher certification “due to a serious violation of kashrut.” That breach was the decision, taken by the owners of Three Brothers, to keep its retail operation on Braeswood open during Passover week this year.
Bobby and Janice Jucker said they had no choice but to keep their business open over Passover, due to financial hardship caused by Hurricane Harvey and other devastating floods that threatened the survival of the small business.
“We got to the point where we had to ask ourselves: Will we be a closed – permanently closed – kosher bakery or a bakery that makes Jewish-style products? Janice Jucker told JHV. “We had to choose the latter.”
HKA lamented the decision, writing in a statement to JHV: “We are saddened by the turn of events, both for a 70-year-old company that has always been kosher and for the Jewish community of Greater Houston, which has now lost. a beloved institution.
Three Brothers’ Braeswood location has suffered damage from four major storms in recent years. The Memorial Day flood in 2015 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017 each caused approximately $1 million in flood damage to the family bakery founded by Holocaust survivors in 1949. In order to recover from Harvey, Three Brothers was forced to withdraw $750,000 disaster loan, the owners noted.
HKA board chairman Steven Plumb told JHV that Three Brothers did not contact HKA before Passover to discuss its decision to open its retail business during Passover. When HKA learned that the retail side of the business had remained open over Passover, HKA sent a notice to the bakery stating that this violation would result in the loss of its kosher supervision.
“Three brothers never called HKA to discuss their decision to open their retail business in front of their store during Passover, nor after in response to the email terminating their certification,” Plumb said.
The owners of the bakery, however, told JHV that they had consulted with HKA regarding their decision to keep the bakery open at a time when Jewish law prohibits Jews from eating and possessing leavened products. The Juckers said they were saddened by both the decision to forfeit the bakery’s kosher certification and the timing of HKA’s public notice.
“We asked [HKA if we can stay open during Passover] and they said no,” Janice told JHV. “We understand that for those who keep kosher, there are rules. I wish the notice sent by HKA could have explained what happened rather than sounding like we’re putting bacon in people’s challah. This was not the case.
“We made the financial decision to stay open,” she said. “When you have the amount of loans that we have now, which we are personally responsible for, you cannot repay your loans if you are closed. You have to run your business to pay your bills. Our disaster loan wasn’t for growth, it was just to stay open – not just for our customers, but for the 65 people we employ.
Three Brothers’ contract with HKA had allowed the bakery to maintain its wholesale business during Passover. The Passover day closure restriction only applied to Three Brothers’ retail operations at its Brasewood site, according to HKA. The Kosher Authority sent a reminder email to the bakery on March 13 dictating the Passover closing dates.
Kosher business has dwindled at the bakery in recent years, according to Three Brothers. Nonetheless, the business was on a growth trajectory after adding new locations in the Houston area in 2012 and 2014. However, that growth was slowed as three floods in three years decimated the vast area of south- west of Houston served by the bakery’s original location. Like many Jewish institutions and businesses affected by Harvey, Three Brothers had to make a difficult financial decision to help keep it alive.
“If all the kosher came to us, we would have stayed closed [for Passover], because it would have been sustainable, but Three Brothers Bakery’s kosher business had really gone down to a very small percentage,” Janice said. “We are definitely going to lose business now, with the loss of kosher certification, and it’s very sad that we’re at this point. Hopefully, however, people in our community will continue to shop with us.
After losing kosher certification, Three Brothers Bakery said on its website that production of popular products would remain unchanged.
“[W]We plan to continue to do things the same way in the bakery department for most products,” according to the update on the bakery’s FAQ page. “For the most important items, i.e. breads and non-dairy products, it will be the same, just without [kosher] surveillance.”
However, customers should expect some changes, in the form of additions, as the bakery looks to increase revenue in the future. One idea being considered is to add a corporate catering service to Three Brothers Bakery, the owners noted.
When HKA announced that Three Brothers Bakery no longer had kosher certification, the company was celebrating its 70th anniversary.
On May 8, Three Brothers Bakery received the US Small Business Administration award for Family Business of the Year. That morning, Janice Jucker participated in a panel discussion on disaster recovery, hosted by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the SBA. That afternoon, the Three Brothers held cake cuttings with customers, business leaders, and elected officials, who introduced the bakery with proclamations.
Late last month, the Juckers traveled to Washington, where they were hosted by Pew Charitable Trusts’ Flood Prepared Communities Project, to share their views on flood reform and meet lawmakers to discuss of the role that government plays in empowering small businesses to survive natural disasters. Additionally, Janice Jucker was invited to serve as a judge at the 2019 National Small Business Week Hackathon, presented by VISA and SBA. The event focused on developing concepts and tools, including smartphone apps, to help business owners prepare for and recover from natural disasters.
The traditions of the Three Brothers bakery date back to Chrzanow, Poland around 1825, and have been preserved despite the family’s imprisonment in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Their miraculous release and subsequent move to Houston brought Eastern European baking traditions to the Gulf Coast of Texas. Perfecting the process for nearly 200 years, Three Brothers Bakery’s fifth-generation bakers produce primarily dairy-free breads and pastries, cookies, a full line of dessert cakes and specialty pies, as well as custom birthday cakes. , special occasions, weddings and groom’s cakes.
In addition to winning numerous industry accolades over its 70-year history, Three Brothers Bakery received the 2018 SBA Phoenix Award for Small Business Disaster Recovery.
“We have to shop at our local businesses to make sure they survive,” Janice said. “All small businesses need the support of their local communities.
“This is how we are recovering from these floods,” she said.
Editor’s note (updated May 16, 2019, 12:15 p.m.): A previous version of this article was published online on May 14. This updated version includes HKA’s comments and the correction that the Passover restriction only applied to the Three Brothers. retail operation at its Braeswood location. The JHV apologizes for the error and omission of statements by HKA in the previous version of this article posted online.