The Spicy Peach is owned by (from left) Jodi Wittenberg, Tzippy Teller and Lydia Schloss.
By R.M. Grossblatt
A couple from Sandy Springs spotted packing their car with groceries in the Kroger Toco Hills parking lot recently were asked why they were shopping so far from home.
“We come for Spicy Peach,” the wife said.
They aren’t the only ones. Customers looking for unique kosher groceries drive from many areas in Georgia to shop at the Spicy Peach, which opened a year and a half ago under the kosher supervision of the Atlanta Kashruth Commission. Others travel from Savannah, Birmingham, Charleston, Charlotte and Nashville just to shop at the kosher specialty store.
Walking into the Spicy Peach is like visiting a food museum. Shelves are stocked with canned and packaged foods from Israel and around the world. Customers are treated to a huge display of kosher cheeses, a fresh salad bar, the smell of grilled food and the taste of soft ice cream. The store is packed with such items as gluten-free challah and apple pie and a famous schmaltz herring from Brooklyn.
Displays are sparkling, neat and artsy.
Unlike most kosher groceries, the Spicy Peach is owned by women: Lydia Schloss, Jodi Wittenberg, and Tzippy Teller, Schloss’ daughter. Schloss, a grandmother, described all of them as foodies.
Schloss has been catering the past 30 years. In the 1980s she and her husband, Rabbi Norman Schloss, owned Norm’s Place, a kosher fleisig restaurant off Briarcliff and LaVista roads.
Also off LaVista was Return to Eden, owned by Wittenberg’s parents while she was growing up and attending the Hebrew Academy (now Atlanta Jewish Academy). Later she and her husband, Josh, bought and ran the health food store. Because of competition from big chains, the Wittenbergs left Return to Eden about eight years ago. Josh became a real estate agent, while Jodi stayed in the food industry.
Around the time that Wittenberg was selling kosher cheeses out of her garage, Schloss was packaging candy trays and marketing them on consignment. Neither woman’s business was booming, so Teller suggested that Wittenberg, her Congregation Beth Jacob Sisterhood co-president, speak to her mother about opening a store. The idea for a specialty kosher grocery was born, and Teller became the third and youngest partner.
After choosing a location in the Toco Hills Shopping Center, the women decided on a name. To brand themselves, they connected to the Peach State, and they added pizzazz by calling themselves the Spicy Peach.
Even before they opened, the owners realized that many people had trouble spelling spicy. So on a snow day in January 2014, when customers had to walk to the store to celebrate its opening, the owners wore black T-shirts emblazoned with the message “How Do You Spell Spicy?”
Some days they still wear the shirts. A few hang in the window — a reminder, along with their signature pink grocery bags, of the playfulness of the owners.
But as playful as they might be, the three women are serious about making their business work. They place special orders for customers and are constantly on the lookout for new products.
For Rosh Hashanah, they offer sheva minim (seven species) ideas (symbolic foods eaten on the first night), gift baskets and hostess gifts, and unusual products including Ricki’s baked goods from Memphis and silan (date honey) as described in the Torah.
With their Israeli chef, they cater Rosh Hashanah meals, b’nai mitzvah celebrations, weddings and other occasions from the kitchens of Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael. The Spicy Peach’s food was on display for more than 500 people at the Atlanta Scholars Kollel’s networking event Wednesday, Sept. 2.
When the Spicy Peach opened, Kroger sent over a delegation to see what was going on. Schloss assured them that the stores weren’t competitors because the Spicy Peach was mostly stocking different items. In fact, if the Spicy Peach doesn’t carry an item, the owners often refer customers to Kroger and other local establishments.
With their goodwill ethics, creativity and hard work, Schloss, Wittenberg and Teller continue to attract regular customers from all over. Yochanon Goldman, a Sandy Springs resident who has lived in metro Atlanta for two years and was shopping at the store on a Monday in August, said, “Without Spicy Peach, I’d be ready to move back to New York.”