Legendary kosher baker Jonathan Grodzinski has announced he is retiring from the industry, having sold the two remaining shops he operated in London with his daughter.
Grodzinski, 73, and his daughter Debbie Paster were the fourth generation of family members involved in the famous bakery, founded in 1888 in London’s East End.
Admitting he would “miss the interaction with thousands of customers”, Grodzinski confirmed he had made the “bittersweet” decision to sell the two remaining stores under his control to Edgware and Golders Green.
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They were bought by Yossi Mozes of Yossi Bakers Edgware, which also took over the Golders Green Carmellis store in 2019, and which is expected to continue the Grodzinski brand.
“It’s not just a 53-year job for me, it fulfilled a family destiny that I’ve enjoyed throughout,” said Grodzinski, a great-grandson of the kosher bakery brand’s founder, at Jewish News.
“I will miss my lovely staff, many of whom have worked for me for decades. I will miss the good humor, the jokes and the satisfaction of a job well done.”
But he confessed: “I will not miss the pressure, the decision making, the deadlines and the nightly phone calls.
He also recalled how many of his customers were the children of his own family themselves, going back to his great-grandparents Judith and Harris, who ran the original Grodzinski shop on Fieldgate Street in the East End.
After rapid business growth, kosher bakeries flourished with stores opening in Stoke Newington, Stamford Hill, Cricklewood, Willesden and Hendon to cater to the growing Jewish population.
Grodzinski eventually became the largest Jewish bakery in Europe, and every week twenty tons of flour was made into bread, rolls, cakes, cookies and pastries, and delivered fresh twice a day to 24 branches around London, covering an area from Ilford in the east to Bayswater in the west, from Edgware in the north, to Soho in the centre.
They also counted Harrods, Selfridges and Marks and Spencer among their wholesale customers.
Every Passover, 40,000 boxes of handmade cakes and cookies were sold to Jewish communities across the UK.
But in recent years, Grodzinski has faced fierce competition, causing many of its stores to close.
In 1991, following a financial restructuring, the bakery was moved from the central bakery to the shops, in an attempt to fight competition from Israeli bakers making hot bread, chollas and beigels in front of their customer.
But two family members moved to Toronto in 1997 and established Grodzinski stores in Canada.
Both Stamford Hill and Edgware bakeries were run by J Grodzinski and Daughters as part of a business modernization.
In 2019 Stamford Hill was sold, but continued to trade as Grodzinski.
Over the past two years, Golders Green has been taken over and, after massive rebuilding and redevelopment, reopened last year as a “Grodz” store.
Former schoolmate Jerry Lewis said: “Pupils at William Ellis School in Highgate will share his memory of the delicious sticky buns he provided for the school store every day which helped several increases in height later in life.”