July 14, 2024
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Now Kosher: Cinnabon/Carvel at the Livingston Mall

It isn’t everyone who spots an opportunity to do good, looks into it, and follows through to get it done. The person who stays with the idea, from start to finish, can accomplish something truly remarkable.

For the Jewish communities of Livingston and West Orange and surrounding areas, one such stand-up guy is Craig Eckstein.

Eckstein, a resident of West Orange and a sales representative for a company selling wholesale building materials, was visiting the Livingston Mall in October and spotted the relatively new Cinnabon/Carvel store. He was aware that there were no food outlets in the mall offering kosher food, and has memories of his childhood, when his family visited the mall and had to bring their own kosher food.

Eckstein decided to go over to the staff of the Cinnabon/Carvel and ask if they’d considered obtaining kosher certification. He spoke with Maria, the mother of the owner Miguel Di Costanzo, and asked his question. And she said, “Yes, actually, we have, and do you know who we’d speak to?”

Eckstein then reached out to the Vaad of MetroWest and spoke with Rabbi Aaron Leff, rabbinic coordinator, and Rabbi Yakov Teichman, rabbinic administrator, telling them that he had a strong lead on an establishment that was interested in “going kosher.” As Eckstein reported, “They took action right away.”

According to Di Costanzo, Eckstein was not the only potential customer who asked if the Livingston Mall Cinnabon/Carvel would consider becoming kosher; he shared that quite a few visitors to the mall had asked since they opened roughly one year ago. But Eckstein was the only one who helped them make the right connections and get the process rolling.

Di Costanzo explained that the decision to become kosher was not a difficult one, because “everybody should be welcome in our store.” The requirements of kashrut were not as foreign to him as they might have been to others, because his mother, Maria (who now works at the Cinnabon/Carvel) previously worked at the Jewish day school in the JCC in Tenafly.

The Vaad worked very closely with Di Costanzo to help him understand and fulfill all the requirements necessary to transform his franchise into a kosher outlet. And he found working with them a pleasure, saying “they were very, very nice and helped us out a lot.”

Di Costanzo reports that kosher customers have been extremely grateful to see the store’s new status: “Oh my gosh, people have been very appreciative of the change. Every single guest from the community is so happy and they are thankful, And I’m so happy to see them so happy!”

Eckstein sees many potential benefits to the local Jewish communities from Cinnabon/Carvel at the Livingston Mall becoming kosher, noting that now NCSY chapters can hold events with food in the mall, the nearby Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School can patronize the store (which it already has), and shuls have a well-regarded dessert provider for events.

“It is with special thanks to Craig Eckstein for making this happen,” said Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler, rav of Congregation AABJ&D of West Orange (where Eckstein is a member) and co-president of the Vaad. “Craig made the connection with the owner and the Vaad, and was determined to make this happen for the betterment of the community. While we already have a Carvel under the Vaad in West Orange, this is the first Cinnabon in the area and people are very excited for it.”

Eckstein takes pride in this accomplishment and noted that a frum co-worker, when hearing of what transpired, told him: “Whenever someone goes to Cinnabon/Carvel in the Livingston Mall and makes a bracha, that’s to your credit.”

The Livingston Mall is located at 112 Eisenhower Parkway and the Cinnabon/Carvel is on the ground floor of the mall. Their hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon-6 p.m. on Sundays. They can be reached at 973/251-2318.

By Harry Glazer

 

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