MILWAUKEE — When the iconic Kosher Meat Klub, 4731 W. Burleigh St., closed last year, it left Milwaukee without a kosher grocer.
Kosher food is available elsewhere, like at local Metro Market supermarkets, or by way of a food run to Chicago. But Mordechai Bates, 28, still saw an unfilled need. He therefore started QuicKosher in July, with a focus on convenience and hard-to-find items.
“July 25 was our first delivery day, a Thursday,” he said. “I started with milk. Very quickly I added a line of cheese products.”
The deliveries were out of his car.
“I kind of just slowly added as I learned the business and learned what customers were looking for,” he said. It got to the point where customers needed more than he could get to them through deliveries alone, he said. So he rented a store at 4833 W. Burleigh St., close to the observant west-side community.
He planned a small, experimental foray into Passover, his first one while in business. Then, two weeks before Passover, Gov. Tony Evers issued a stay-at-home order and Bates was inundated with requests for food.
Before all that, he was a Milwaukee-born member of Congregation Beth Jehudah, thinking about medical school or business.
“I’ve always wanted to open up my own business; that has been a life goal of mine,” he said. He remembers he was “kind of watching as people tried to make it to Chicago.”
He felt there were others in the community with more relevant experience than him.
Then it came to him: “This is something that needs to happen. Somebody needs to step up. You know what? This is an opportunity. I’m going to take it and see where it goes.”
After all, it wasn’t going to be a total fresh start. He’d previously worked as a kosher supervisor.
The coronavirus era has amped up business. Just before Passover, he said, he’d been buried in texts, call and emails. “It’s kind of been just calming the customers, making sure everyone knows we’re going to do what needs to be
done,” he said.
Bates has delivered to Mequon, the east side and even Madison. He said he’ll deliver anywhere.
“We’re trying to accommodate everyone as much as possible to make sure that everyone has food and is not required to leave the house,” he said.
He practices social distancing, loading meats, dairy and baked goods into the backs of people’s cars.
He recommends that neighbors check on neighbors to see if they need help with ordering. “A lot of the elderly struggle with my kind of business because it’s not what they’re used to,” he said.
On one Friday alone before Passover, he brought in more than 1,500 pounds of meat from Chicago. One of his innovations is that he obtains large cuts of meat from Chicago, then has it cut down and packaged by a local vendor, under Wisconsin K supervision. What’s next? The website at present is more of an “order taker,” he said. He’d like to upgrade it.
Just before Passover, he said he was working at all hours and grateful for his wife understanding. They have two children.
It’s clear he’s providing a needed service. It seems timing has been on this start-up’s side. Bates said: “It feels like He had a plan.”