How holiday businesses stay lucrative year-round
Name: Eli Ribak
Business name: Barsheshet – Ribak Shofarot Israel
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel
Busy season: Tishah B’Av until Yom Kippur
Years in business: I was born into it. My family’s been in this business since 1927
Position: Copartner /owner
How did you get started?
My father’s uncle had produced shofrot in Poland. When he came to Israel in 1927, he opened a small shofar factory in the back of his house. He was childless and passed away suddenly in 1966. My father (who had helped him out as a teenager) took over his uncle’s life’s work. As a teenager, I’d also worked there occasionally, and when my father passed away eight years ago, I joined the business full-time.
The Bar-Sheshet family immigrated from Morocco in the 1950s and had their own small factory in Haifa for 30 years. Eventually, my father and Mr. Bar-Sheshet joined forces, and we’ve been working together ever since, continuing production in both Tel Aviv and Haifa.
When do you start preparing?
We work the entire year.
What’s it like at peak season?
We work full days, selling thousands of shofrot in all different styles — Ashkenaz, Yemenite, Italian, Sephardi… with all different types of finishing and polish. We also teach people how to blow, not something you can find in most other shops.
When is downtime?
After Yom Kippur it gets quieter, but we’re still busy. Judaica stores worldwide carry shofrot year-round, so we’re always producing and building up stock.
How do you make it work parnassah-wise?
While obviously some months are better than others, the business brings in steady income year-round.
How do you staff the business?
We have the same five staff members all year.
What do you make sure to do in your off season?
After Succot, I take my yearly family vacation.
Things you didn’t know about the business before you started:
I was always familiar with it — I was literally born into this business — but new regulations make it more complicated for me than it was for my father or great uncle.
Recommendations for someone who wants to go into the business:
Don’t. If this wouldn’t be a family business, I wouldn’t have gone into it. It’s very hard physical work in a small, smelly, dusty area.
Most memorable customer:
A twenty-year-old with autism asked me to make him a shofar, so he could blow the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur. I made him a beautiful shofar and worked with him for many hours, teaching him how to blow. I’ve made shofrot for many admorim and rabbis all over the world, but that one was particularly special to me.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 892)
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