We, Bobby and Janice Jucker, co-owners of Three Brothers Bakery, have fought back after every disaster to befall our family owned bakery. We come from a history of survivorship – beginning with the founders’ liberation during the Holocaust. As many know, Hurricane Harvey brought four days of rain and over fifty inches of rainfall. It was a life changing storm. Harvey was our 4th flood, plus we survived and rebuilt after Hurricane Ike and a small fire at an inopportune time – during the Christmas holiday season.
After each disaster, decisions have to be made – whether it is about a home or a business. Eighteen months after Hurricane Harvey and on the eve of Three Brothers Bakery’s 70th Anniversary, the Houston Kashruth Association (HKA) informed us that our Kosher license had been rescinded. In order to pay off our approximately $750,000 in SBA disaster loans from Hurricane Harvey, we decided we needed to stay open during Passover. (The HKA had been letting us bake in the back to service commercial accounts since 2010 – after reopening from Hurricane Ike).
Why some businesses have to close and others do not
Because we are Jewish, we are required to close our retail business during Passover, and with such a debt we cannot afford to do so anymore. Although we know we will lose some customers, we are planning to continue doing things the same way in the baking department for most products. For those most important items, i.e., breads and non-dairy products will be the same, just without supervision. We are hopeful that there are some Kosher clientele that will be satisfied with that compromise. There is also a plan in the works to begin a corporate catering business to make up the lost revenues and feel certain we can grow with this new line of business.
A Changing Kosher Clientele
The Kosher clientele in Houston, Texas, has changed over the years. For 55 years, Three Brothers Bakery was considered Kosher for all, but then a “not Kosher enough” movement came to town, and slowly the bakery lost a large part of the Kosher business. Couple the previous with the fact that many younger people do not keep Kosher. Additionally, since Harvey, many of the Kosher institutions are having to make some tough financial decisions, and the Bakery cannot compete with lower quality, machine-made, and high-volume competitors which are now selected due to cheap pricing. Three Brothers Bakery is a scratch bakery making everything by hand using the best quality ingredients.
We are very sad about this decision. It was a gut-wrenching decision, but we employ sixty-five people and have to think about the mouths they feed. Because of Hurricane Harvey, this is what we have to do to survive—it’s better than the alternative.