Imagine a chain drug store in northern New Jersey without Chanukah merchandise.
But that’s what Rose Becker of Hackensack found at the Rite Aid store on LaFayette Avenue in Hawthorne on No. 23.
“I looked down the seasonal aisle, where they have all the Christmas stuff, and then I looked down some other aisles,” she told The Jewish Standard.
She asked a sales associate, who in turn asked a supervisor where the Chanukah merchandise was.
“There is none,” said the supervisor, who was Jewish and told Becker that she had “asked the same question, and she was kind of surprised, too.”
“Rite Aid is a national drugstore chain; it’s a big corporation. I thought it was kind of weird that they wouldn’t have anything for Chanukah,” said Becker, a legal secretary who works part-time in Hawthorne.
This reporter visited the store on Tuesday and saw no Chanukah items there – nor did a shopper who was looking for a Chanukah gift for a friend.
The store’s manager was unavailable for comment, working to clear out a storeroom next door, but sent word through an assistant manager that the store had no control over what was in stock.
But the supervisor a week earlier had told Becker her district manager said the store had no Chanukah merchandise because the area didn’t warrant it.
There are no synagogues in Hawthorne, but “there’s one right in Glen Rock, which is right next to it, and it’s right next to Fair Lawn,” Becker pointed out. “Are they saying they only have Christian customers?”
This reporter also visited the Rite Aid in Washington Township that day, about six-tenths of a mile from Temple Beth Or, and, after asking a clerk, found three Chanukah items: greeting cards, gift wrap paper, and premium menorah candles.
“Normally we get a display, but not this year,” the clerk said.
Both stores had extensive displays of Christmas merchandise, from decorations to greeting cards to cookies to toys.
Rite Aid has about 4,700 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia and is a Fortune 500 company.
Ashley Flower, a spokesperson for Rite Aid in Camp Hill, Pa., confirmed that what is sent to the stores “definitely depends on past sales and past seasons … as well as demographics.”
During this recession, many retailers have stocked less merchandise, preferring to run out of an item rather than have any left over unsold.
But Becker notes that stores often put leftover merchandise for Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and other holidays on sale at a discount.
In a letter to the chairman of the board of Rite Aid, Becker wrote that the decision not to stock Chanukah items at the Hawthorne store “is a definite stand and/or message … to single out and segregate a religious grouping/community.”
Bergen and Passaic counties are among the counties in the United States with the most Jewish residents.
“In your area, I can speak that we do have the merchandise,” Flower told the Standard. “We will certainly take a look at this going forward for next year as we make our purchasing decisions.”