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Chapter Fourteen

No Stores Like The Stores In Crown Heights

(To the tune of "Gee Ma I want to go home")

Oh the stores we have in Crown Heights
Will cost you quite a sum
They charge a hundred dollars
For one small piece of gum
Come in and take a look, you'll see that there
Are no stores like stores in Crown Heights

Oh the clothing stores in Crown Heights
Are all top of the line
They still have things on clearance
From Nineteen Twenty-Nine
Come in and take a look, you'll see that there
Are no stores like stores in Crown Heights

Oh the pizza shop in Crown Heights
Has cheese that is so great
It slides right off the pizza
And lands plop on your plate
Come in and take a look, you'll see that there
Are no better stores by far
We're mighty proud there are
No stores like stores in Crown Heights!

    Everyone here has their favorite grocery store. Ours is Koshertown, run by Berel and Perel Elkon (and yes, they are as cute as they sound). Berel is a funny guy. Whenever a customer walks in the door he almost always says, "You're fine, how am I?" I think that's a nice way to greet people because he is actually giving them a blessing. He's constantly making jokes to his customers, and he puts them in a good mood. He and Perel are two of the nicest and most decent people I have ever met (and I'm not just saying that because they still allow us to shop in their store even though we owe them hundreds of dollars).

     One day, out of curiosity, I asked them what kind of Jews they were, since I knew they were not Lubavitchers. Perel smiled (she has a beautiful smile) as she quickly and proudly answered "We're Jews!" I thought that was a great answer. One time my husband noticed Berel davening at 770 and he asked me to tell Berel the next day that he should be careful where he davens or someone might think he's a Lubavitcher. Berel laughed and said "People could think much worse things about me than that!" And he also happens to be very smart. He speaks Spanish, Yiddish and English, and his mind is too quick for most of us. He is always at least two steps ahead of his customers. We are very blessed to have Koshertown in our neighborhood, and I sincerely hope G-D will bless Berel and Perel with better paying customers than us.

     There is a fabulous store here called Sell-e-bration. All the kids love to go there for birthday party gifts or for anything special that has to do with celebrations and simchas and just about anything happy. The store is run by Yisroel Greenberg. He is a mild-mannered person who is always patient and helpful to all of his customers (you try being patient with kids who take an hour to pick out just the right birthday gift for their friend). When we first moved here I went there one day and I paid for my merchandise and walked out of the store leaving my purchase on the counter. I just had a lot on my mind then. I had to come back later to get my purchase. But the next day I did it again and I was very embarrassed to come back after doing the same stupid thing twice. When I came in to retrieve my second purchase he handed it to me and smiled as he said, "I laughed my head off." He made me relax. I was afraid he might think I was an idiot, but he didn't, or at least he didn't make me feel like one.

     Everybody knows Moshe, because he runs Nosh World, the most favorite store in Crown Heights. And why not? There is something there for everyone. Not only does the store have ice cream, but it also has all kinds of chocolates, nuts, popcorn and cotton candy. And the best thing is that the store stays open until 1 a.m. to accommodate people's late night cravings. It's also well known that when Jews from out of town come into Crown Heights, after first taking care of their spiritual selves at 770, they hop over to Nosh World to take care of their physical selves. And it's all kosher, so Ess Gesuntaheit!

     The Kingston Auction Mart, run by a nice man named Yehuda, carries just about everything for your basic household needs. This store has pots and pans, hardware, diapers, laundry bins, paper goods, tablecloths, dishes and all kinds of little tchotchkes (knickknacks) for your home. They have a mikvah to toivel the dishes you purchase there, and the owner even lets you toivel things that you bought someplace else (new pots and pans, dishes, silverware and things like that are supposed to be dunked in a mikvah before you can use them). Yehuda is a warm and friendly person who makes a good impression on everyone who comes into his store. Once while I was waiting to pay him for something, a little boy came over to him and I soon realized that the boy was Yehuda's son. He showed his father a paper and told him that he and his friends were starting some sort of club. I gathered from what he said that it wasn't a school club, just a club that some kids were making up. Yehuda explained very nicely to his son that he didn't think those kind of clubs were a good idea. He said some kids might be left out and their feelings would be hurt, and that just wasn't right. After listening to what Yehuda said I felt really proud to have a person like that running a store right here in Crown Heights.

     Of course I think that the store everyone in Crown Heights is most proud of is the Tzivos Hashem Store run by Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson. There you will find every possible toy, game, puzzle, book, tape, video and pretty much everything with Jewish content for children. They also publish the Tzivos Hashem Children's Newsletter and a magazine called Moshiach Times. In addition to that, they go places to do demonstrations such as shofar making and matzah baking. This is not just any ordinary Judaica store. It is an entire concept.

     Tzivos Hashem, came about years ago when the Rebbe introduced a way for Jewish children all over the world to learn all about their role as a Jew. This brilliant concept has promoted and continues to promote the observance of mitzvahs and the whole idea of serving Hashem b'simcha. The Rebbe knew that it would be the children of this generation who, with their energy and their pureness of heart, would succeed in helping to push all of us to the Final Redemption. This store has certainly taken an active part in enabling Jewish children to accomplish their most important mission, which is why we are so proud to have the headquarters of Tzivos Hashem right here in our neighborhood.

     Crown Heights is proud of all of our stores. You could try to tell us that they have even better and more interesting stores than ours in places like Boro Park, Flatbush, Williamsburg and Monsey. But the real truth is that there are no stores like stores in Crown Heights. And by the way, it doesn't really cost a hundred dollars to buy a piece of gum here, our clothing stores do have some really beautiful items, and the pizza here is actually quite good. Why don't you come visit Crown Heights and see for yourself. Who knows, you might even rediscover your connection with Mount Sinai. And that's a bargain that can't be beat in any store anywhere in the world.