Some people venture on missions or trips overseas. Others adopt online causes or act as advocates in alternative ways to support Israel. For several area merchants, one way to aid the Jewish state is providing customers the possibility of purchasing Israeli manufactured products.
“I always have since I’ve been in business,” said Edna Galioto, owner of Capriccio, a women’s clothing store that originated in 2003.
Currently available at the Squirrel Hill shop is a white jacket from Alembika, a Tel Aviv-based company that, according to its website, operates 13 “flagship” sites across the country and ships to “hundreds of exclusive boutiques around the globe.”
In addition to carrying Alembika, Galioto routinely stocks Ronen Chen, another Israeli fashion brand.
“People ask for it and it sells. It’s beautiful,” said Galioto.
Providing purchasers with an attractive item that traces its roots to Israel is what drew Paul Kenney, owner of Kidz & Company, to No Biggie, an Israeli children’s brand founded by Yael Marcovitz, a Tel Aviv-based designer.
“I thought they were cool,” he said, while holding up several stylish bodysuits. As for the company’s connection to Israel, “I like that, and it’s also a selling point in this neighborhood.”
But while Kenney and Galioto actively seek out Israeli goods, other merchants are more interested in finding the best product, regardless of its roots. And they’re quick to point out that the concepts needn’t be mutually exclusive.
Littles Shoes, a Squirrel Hill-based retailer, currently has two Israeli collections: Naot and Beautifeel.
The comfort and manufacturing are what set these shoes apart from other items, explained Justin Sigal, Littles’ president. The fact that they are made in Israel, “it’s kind of an added bonus.”
Ultimately, where the items come from “is not really a focus of ours,” said Jake, an employee at the East Liberty Trader Joe’s. “We just carry products that people like.” And some of those happen to be Israel-sourced.
In a 2017 post to its website, the Monrovia, Calif.-based grocer touted its offering of Bamba, the peanut-flavored nosh that serves as a practical staple within infant Israeli cuisine: “Not only is Bamba … tricky to find in general (most U.S. grocers don’t carry the stuff), it’s darn near impossible to find it at a price better than ours — because we’re selling each 3.5-ounce bag of Trader Joe’s Bamba Peanut Snacks for just 99 cents. That’s practically peanuts!”
Additionally noted is that the popped and crunchy bites are “made for us in Israel, where Bamba is far and away the best-selling snack in the country.”
“We have about four to five vendors and they provide us with jewelry from Israel,” said Coral Fleischman, accessories coordinator at the store.
While items from E&L and Paz Creations are both currently available at the Fox Chapel space, interested customers should also go online, she said. A quick search at tjmaxx.com reveals more than 250 products “made in Israel.”
Although there is a certain enjoyment in knowing that something is manufactured in Israel, more exciting is actually seeing it made, explained Sigal, who visited Teva Naot’s factory during a visit overseas.
“It’s on a kibbutz, you see the locals making them, it’s a neat thing,” said Sigal.
Catching sight of a clog’s construction was “cool,” he said, but what really buckled the whole experience together was exiting the kibbutz Naot Mordechai plant.
Added Sigal: “You’re in Israel and in a shoe factory, and you step outside of the factory and you have Israel all around you.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.