Kosher bakery is like grandma's kitchen

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Roz Bratt prepares to make hamantaschen with students from the Center City Jewish Preschool earlier this month. Her Society Hill bakery, Homemade Goodies by Roz, is Pas Yisroel.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Roz Bratt prepares to make hamantaschen with students from the Center City Jewish Preschool earlier this month. Her Society Hill bakery, Homemade Goodies by Roz, is Pas Yisroel.
Posted: April 01, 2014

THINK OF A JOB, and chances are, Roz Bratt has done it - bank teller, corporate trainer, retail buyer, preschool teacher, activities director at a retirement home and more.

But her latest gig has been her favorite - and most frustrating.

Seventeen years ago, she opened a bakery in Society Hill called Homemade Goodies by Roz. Sagging sales almost drove her to close six years ago.

"But I am not a quitter," Bratt said.

So Bratt - a nonobservant Jew who usually goes to synagogue just for the high holidays - decided to go kosher. And not just kosher, but Pas Yisroel, the strictest level of kosher supervision. It requires that an observant Jew at minimum light the ovens; Bratt's supervisor also cracks the eggs and burns a bit of batter from each recipe in the oven before Bratt bakes.

Bratts' bakery now is the only Pas Yisroel bakery in greater Center City, and one of just three in the Philadelphia region. About half her customers are Jewish, although Bratt notes: "I do for everybody - St. Paddy's, Christmas, Halloween, everybody."

The change boosted business enough that at 65, Bratt has no plans to retire. "This is my home away from home. I got another five years at least," she said.

She still doesn't draw as many customers as she'd like. She blames her location - on 5th Street just north of South, in Society Hill. "The tourists don't come off South Street, and the locals don't care to come near South Street," Bratt said.

But once you see her bakery, it's baffling why hordes of hungry cookie lovers aren't swarming.

"I'm the success story that nobody knows about," Bratt joked.

From the outside, the bakery looks like a haven for little girls, with its hot-pink facade and cartoon teddy bear wearing a chef's hat on a sign overhead.

Inside, it feels like your grandma's kitchen (Bratt is a grandma of two), with warm, sugary smells wafting past mismatched tables and chairs and embroidered samplers on walls with slogans like "In this kitchen, there is only one finger in the pot . . . Mine." The bakery cases brim with Jewish apple cake, hamantaschen (triangular cookies with fruit filling), cupcakes and other goodies.

A cookbook collector, Bratt is a self-taught baker.

Her first foray into baking arose from a stop at an Old City luncheonette, where a "homemade" sign sat in front of Drake's Cakes and other treats clearly not made from scratch.

Bratt offered to bake something homemade for them to sell, and the eatery's owner suggested a Jewish apple cake.

"I don't think I'd ever made one before. But I made it that night," Bratt said. "I brought it to them at 8 o'clock in the morning, and they called me at quarter to 9 to say it was three-quarters gone."

From there, she sold home-baked goods to caf├ęs, bookstores and other area businesses before opening her own bakery in 1997.


On Twitter: @DanaDiFilippo

Blog: phillyconfidential.com

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