How holiday businesses stay lucrative year-round
Name: Lazer Dovid Greenwald
Busy season: One week after Succos through Pesach
Location: Montreal, Canada
Business name: Montreal Matzah Bakery
Years in business: 27-28 years
How did you get started?
Years ago, I was manufacturing car parts. But when NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was signed, Mexican competition brought prices way down, and the company closed. I had a large family to support, and I couldn’t afford to be unemployed. In the past I’d volunteered in a matzah bakery, and I thought it might be a good parnassah.
When do you start preparing?
We start in July/August, combing Canada for wheat; that process can be more stressful than production. Once we’ve found the wheat harvest that we want, we bring it to the factory to clean and mill it. By Rosh Hashanah, I’m looking for workers, and then production takes roughly 20-24 weeks during the winter.
What’s it like at peak season?
A single season alone takes about 40-50 people working 700-800 hours. We work 8:30-5:00 five days a week, and right before Pesach we’re making matzahs round the clock. After Pesach, it takes a few weeks to close up shop.
What do you do with the leftover stock?
Labor is too expensive, and the profit margin is too small to have any leftovers, so we work accordingly. If we see we’re likely to have leftovers, we’ll stop production. I don’t remember the last time that happened.
When is downtime?
The summer is quiet. We only have two or three workers then.
What do you do the rest of the year?
I always quip that I’m looking for a job I don’t want to find. I use the quiet time after Pesach to update the equipment, deal with any problems, paint the building, etc.
How do you make it work parnassah-wise?
It’s stressful. Money doesn’t come in before Pesach, but I have to put up funds in advance, and there’s a huge payroll. Some years are harder than others, but I’ve been doing it for many years now and try to prepare accordingly.
How do you staff the business?
It’s a challenge every year because people leave. Still, we pay well, so we do manage to find people.
What do you make sure to do in your off season?
Go to Eretz Yisrael.
Things you didn’t know about the business before you started:
Almost everything. While I’d previously participated in matzah chaburahs, I quickly discovered I had no idea what this business entails. It took me years to learn, and I’m still learning.
Recommendations for someone who wants to enter the business:
I’d make sure the person knows it’s real physical labor — most people aren’t keen on that. You’ll also have to lay out all the money up front, and you won’t see it back until Pesach. Another disadvantage is that people usually buy their matzahs from the same place every single year and aren’t likely to suddenly start buying from someone new.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 892)
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