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Though it happened last year, we only recently learned that Mike and Dalit Lewis, owners of Village Hummus in San Mateo, decided to sell the successful business, and it’s been under new, non-Israeli ownership since the middle of 2020.
When the place opened in 2015, our former food columnist and now contributing editor Andy Altman-Ohr noted that Village Hummus made “some of the creamiest and richest hummus I’ve ever tasted.”
The sale took place last June. The family was looking at a long-term lease renewal in 2019, and after reviewing the rising costs of just about everything, Lewis said they just couldn’t make the numbers add up. Their decision was made even before the pandemic.
He said they were really grateful to find a buyer once the pandemic started. While the new owner bought Lewis’ recipes, she is free to do as she likes with the eatery, and some decidedly non-Middle Eastern items (such as boba tea, matcha lattes and Indian breakfasts) have been introduced to the formerly Jerusalem-centric menu.
“Both the Jewish and Israeli communities took us under their wings when we started and stuck with us and ordered from us and made us grow,” said Lewis, who was born Micha in Israel and grew up on a kibbutz. “We never thought we’d only cater to only the Jews or Israelis, but they proved themselves to us time and time again. It was a great surprise and a humbling one, too.”
As for the Lewises, they had moved with their three daughters to Danville, 40 miles away, while they still owned Village Hummus. Lewis isn’t sure what he’ll do next. His background is in baking, and while in the meantime he’s been doing some culinary consulting, he’s contemplating his next move.
“We had a great time running it,” he said. “Barring more locations and outside investments, we’re proud that we took it as far as a family business could go.”
In 2018 and 2019, we reported in this space about the forthcoming plans for Burgerim, an Israeli chain, to open hundreds of franchises in the Bay Area. Founded in Tel Aviv, outlets had opened in several locations already, with, supposedly, many more on the way.
While some of them did come to be, we recently learned from an article in Berkeleyside that several of those Bay Area franchises now have a new name — iniBurger — and that Burgerim is no longer.
According to Berkeleyside’s “Nosh” column, three Burgerim local locations (Pleasant Hill, Fremont and Pleasanton) were owned by an immigrant from Afghanistan, Abdul Popal, who ran successful franchises largely because he offered a Halal menu; Burgerim gave him the freedom to offer it and his franchises became the most profitable in the country.
But Popal running profitable franchises was not the norm. According to a three-part series in Restaurant Business called “The Burgerim Disaster,” the business was run like a pyramid scheme, duping many into handing over their life savings to give the company $50,000 to open their franchise, with nothing in return. Former CEO Oren Loni, who bought the concept from its original founder, has since apparently fled back to Israel and the company has folded, according to the articles at RestaurantBusinessOnline.com.
“The company had zero locations in 2015 and just a couple of locations in 2016,” said one article. “But by the time the brand collapsed at the end of 2019, it had signed more than 1,200 franchise agreements.”
Meanwhile, Popal hopes to be able to offer support to other Burgerim owners who are not as profitable as he is.
Radinsky, 19, is a first-year student at Cal, although with classes online during the pandemic, she elected to stay at home in Los Angeles for her freshman year.
The author developed a gluten intolerance at age 9 — at a time when you couldn’t find gluten-free desserts anywhere — so she went about developing recipes on her own. The book is part cookbook and part self-help manual, with the teenage girl in mind. Most recipes are paleo-style treats using alternative baking staples such as nut flours and coconut cream, as well as sweeteners like maple syrup and coconut sugar. The self-help portions include yoga poses, mindfulness exercises and empowerment tips.
“In this book, we are going to embrace our whole selves — every part of us — just as we are,” Radinsky writes in the introduction. “We can reject society’s arbitrary rules by treating ourselves with respect, enjoying food, and relishing this incredible time in life.”