| Always in Season |

Always in Season: Yehoshua Berger

How holiday businesses stay lucrative year-round

Name: Yehoshua Berger
Years in business: In the broader business — 15 years. I started my company EsrogShopper.com in 2017
Position: Owner
Business name EsrogShopper.com
Busy season: From a week or two before Rosh Hashanah until Succos
Location: Lakewood, New Jersey — but we service the entire continental USA


How did you get started? 

I used to sell esrogim as a hobby, and I realized a lot of people were intimidated by the whole process. That’s where my website comes in. Clients fill out a questionnaire, describing what kind of esrog they want. We find just the right one and deliver it to their door.


When do you start preparing? 

I do the prep work, meeting with my suppliers and placing my orders, and working out a marketing plan for the season, in the summer. This way I’m free to focus on the esrogim in real time.


What’s it like at peak season? 

Lots of late nights.  There are two weeks with a lot of heavy action when we’re always busy packaging and filling hundreds of orders.


What do you do with the leftover stock? 

We try hard not to have too much leftover. That’s every esrog vendor’s biggest challenge — to be prepared with adequate merchandise while not overstocking. We can’t exactly save any for next year.


When is downtime? 

Shabbosim are an oasis, in both a physical and spiritual sense.


What do you do the rest of the year? 

I’ve been working in the mental health field. In fact, once my two worlds merged. I got a call from the parents of a patient in a lockdown unit. He wanted a set of daled minim but his parents wouldn’t be able to get it to him on time for Yom Tov. It was well past our order deadline, but we gladly filled the order. It was so meaningful for us to give simchas Yom Tov to a hospital patient.


How do you make it work parnassah-wise? 

It started as a hobby, not something I relied on for parnassah. When I started the website, I realized I had to make a decision: Do I want to put a lot of time and energy into it or not? I decided to invest, but for me, it’s always been more about being involved in a mitzvah and helping others with their simchas Yom Tov.


How do you staff the business?

I keep it in the family. My brother Yaakov, a kollel yungerman, is my right-hand man.  He has a great eye for esrogim and is literally at my side for three weeks straight, sorting and selecting esrogim. His upbeat personality makes him a master in customer service, so he’s also the customer service guy. Then I have two brothers-in-law who run the delivery department, a cousin who’s my shipping guru, and a brother who uses his social-media savvy to help spread the word.


What do you make sure to do in your off season? 

Yom Tov comes on the heels of our crazy season, so that’s my vacation. I really enjoy Succos and the arba minim too — I love doing the mitzvah I’ve worked so hard on. After looking at hundreds and thousands of esrogim, I still have excitement for the mitzvah. The day I lose interest in esrogim, I’ll get out of the business.


Things you didn’t know about the business before you started: 

I was used to people coming to inspect the esrogim, touching, haggling. I wasn’t sure it could even be done any other way.


Recommendations for someone who wants to enter the business: 

Only do it if you enjoy and appreciate esrogim. It’s too hard and too much work if you don’t enjoy it.


Most memorable customer: 

I’ll never forget what it was like when coronavirus’s second wave in the Tristate areas hit right around Rosh Hashanah 2020. I got many new customers who were sick or quarantined but still wanted to choose their daled minim. They saw this service as their best bet, and many gave me amazing feedback.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 892)

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