Rabbi Baruch Ne'eman z"l, the founder. From French teacher to pastry shop owner/private
"We planned to do a nice happening on Hanukkah to celebrate the chain's 80th anniversary. Our thought was to brand all the branches as 80 years old, except for special donuts with the 80th mark, but following the events of October 7 and the war that began, we changed the concept to 'together we will win,'" says Mimi Ne'eman-Sheikh, marketing and advertising manager at the Ne'eman Bakery chain.
"We also released a donut called 'Israela' - a blue-and-white donut filled with patisserie cream, covered with white chocolate, decorated with elongated candies in the colors of the flag and with the Israeli pennant."
"Hanukkah is the festival of miracles. I pray that a miracle will happen to our country, God willing. Doughnuts have something comforting about this difficult situation. Our flagship doughnut is with the Israeli flag. There are people who really take it as patriotic, to praise the flag," adds Riki Ne'eman-Bascon, who runs two branches of the chain in Jerusalem (and Mimi's sister).
The story of the family's Ne'eman bakery chain, which has about 60 branches throughout the country (most of them franchised) and produces hundreds of different products every day, began with the immigration to Israel in 1932 from the prize of the late Rabbi Baruch Ne'eman. Ne'eman, who in his native country worked as a French teacher, settled in Jerusalem's Bukharim neighborhood and began working as a cake marketer in one of the city's pastry shops.
A loyal family through the ages. Baking as a way of life / Sharon Revivo
Then he became attached to the pastry shop "Kop", until eventually he became the owner of a small pastry shop that produced baked goods. In the early hours of the morning, he would walk the streets of the city with a baby carriage full of pastries and sell his wares. "To this day, people approach me in Jerusalem who remember my grandfather walking around with a baby stroller in the Bukharim neighborhood," says Mimi.
Today there is no trace of that baby stroller, but Rabbi Baruch's legacy hovers over the modern factory in the Atarot industrial zone, which covers an area of about 11 dunams and employs 130 workers. The factory exports various products (breads, cakes, pastries, cookies, etc.) every day to branches throughout the country.
Yossi Ne'eman (79, the owner, Baruch's son) and Yossi's children: Ofer (55, the chain's CEO), Buki (53, pastry chef, recipe developer), and Mimi (46) and Ricky (51). These are, by the way, not the only family members you'll find there. For example, Dotan (Mimi's husband) and Rafi (Ricky's husband) are franchisees of branches; Rachela, Ofer's wife, works in bookkeeping; And Aviv, Buki's daughter, is a graphic artist who does branding for the web.
"After I was discharged from the army, I connected to my father's business," Yossi says. "My perseverance and will brought me to today's place. I would get up at three in the morning, go to work – and it was hard work – but I had a goal, I always dreamed of succeeding. I had a will, help from G-d, and I succeeded. My wife, Aviva, also joined me in the business. She is a dominant woman, very strong. She worked as a finance manager and was very helpful to me."
"I'm very excited that this is a business that my grandfather started with minimal conditions, with both hands, while now we operate an advanced family factory, spread out in branches all over the country," Ofer adds.
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"Israela", the patriotic donut of a loyal pastry/PR
Say, how do you get through all this family?
Yossi: "First of all, we are a religious family, and we are very united. We praise each other. Also, I don't give one more and the other less. For me, everyone is equal. Of course, Aviva, my wife, is winning this matter, and thank God, there are no fights."
Ofer: "There is a very clear division of roles between us. We all know how to respect each other, to give up to each other, and we have a father who is our leader. His word is the last."
Ricky: It's very easy for us. In the first place, everyone knows his place and role. Once a week we hold a joint meeting and brainstorm."
Buki: "Everything is done in harmony and love, and everyone is praising. It's homeschooling."
Mimi: "In business, we put aside for a moment the fact that we are family, and somewhere maintain a hierarchy. Just as every organization has a CEO and the hierarchy works, so it is with us. Everyone gives his opinion and everything is in harmony and fun, but in the end you have to have someone make the decision. Ofer is the CEO of the chain, and if he decides something, then the decision is made. Our father, let him be healthy, is also with us. His weight is the greatest, and as far as we are concerned, he is the president."
At the beginning of the company's journey, Yossi says, "We had a small number of products: yeast cakes filled with poppy seed or jam, some biscuit cakes. There was not a large selection. Now my son, Buki, is constantly developing new things."
"The motto is always to be innovative and not boring," notes Boki. "For example, there's our usual challah that we've been baking for years, whereas now we've introduced a trend of new challah, 'water comb,' which is rich in a lot of liquid. It is very airy, tasty and very nicely captured. Now we're considering making it in all sorts of flavors. Or if in our routine we have yeast cakes, nuts, poppy seeds, cheese, then now we also do all kinds of things for young people, like yeast cake with chiara spread, with janduja spread."
Speaking of innovations, then what happens on Chanukah?
Buki: "The 'Israela' doughnut, of course not to be missed because of the patriotism. Besides her, there are many other delicious doughnuts, including Rasberry Rose filled with raspberry cream, topped with white chocolate and raspberry crumble. In addition to the variety of special doughnuts, there are of course the usual ones that everyone loves: filled with strawberry jam or milk jam."
Mimi: "Hanukkah is a holiday of miracles and wonders. This year we made an even more stunning collection of donuts with special flavors and coatings precisely because of the situation the nation finds itself in. No one will break us."
"A pastry shop inside a mall is not something they saw back then. It made very big waves." Branch of Ne'eman Pastry / Or Gefen
From heard about a bakery in the mall?
According to Yossi, he had no need to convince his children to join the business. "It was obvious that they would join me, they always helped me even when they were little. I aspire to include my grandchildren as well. With us, it's hereditary," he says.
"I always say I was born with cake in my hand," Mimi laughs. "Before school, I would come with my father to the business, grab a cake, chocolate milk and carry on. On vacations, I used to work there."
What is the main contribution of the younger generation to the business?
Mimi: "The turning point of the chain began when we opened the branch of the Malha Mall - Azrieli Jerusalem in 1986. Before that, we were two small street branches that symbolized Jerusalem of yesteryear. A pastry shop inside a mall is not something they saw back then. It made very big waves.
Slowly, requests began to arrive to open more similar branches, and this is where the younger head comes in - how to grow this circle of branches with more good people. In the beginning, the franchises were given to people who grew up with us. It can be said that the younger generation contributed to the nationwide breakthrough. Dad, by the way, comes to see all the places we are offered to open. He with his experience, with his sixth sense, decides whether or not it is worth opening."
Buki: "We also took the business to more contemporary trends in terms of products, to up-to-date designs of the branches. But I think everything, first and foremost, is help from above. There's a verse that hangs in my office: 'And you remembered the Lord your God because He gives you strength to do good.'"
According to Yossi, his most significant decision over the years was to move about 15 years ago to a large and sophisticated factory that could supply the variety of produce to dozens of branches. "At first, our factory was in the Talpiot neighborhood," he says. "The move to a factory in Atarot with high automation allowed us to produce more, to develop more. I built a strong infrastructure so I could open many branches."
One of the difficulties, Ofer says, is dealing with the issue of renting with the owners of the properties in which the chain's branches are located. "The rent is very expensive. I need my franchisees to make a profit, they are part of us, like a family, I take care of them as if I take care of myself," he says, also talking about the fact that "since COVID-19, raw material prices have been rampant at very high levels.
We are experiencing crazy price increases of flour, sugar, oil, margarine and butter. Prices are only going up all the time. In order to maintain our business as a 'gourmet for the masses', we try to fight it at home. In other words, to be more efficient, to save more where possible - all this so as not to raise the prices to the end customer in the same proportion as we are raised. We absorbed a lot of the price increases. We raised prices, but not as much as they raised us."
In terms of competition, says Mimi, "There are a lot of businesses in the field and there is room for everyone. The question is where you place yourself. We appeal to the entire nation, and we also have fancy kashrut. We are not a fancy patisserie chain, but a chain that looks the people at eye level, at fair prices, with quality products. Our audience is the people themselves, soldiers, entire families. Anyone who enters our branches will find himself. The products come out hot all the time, and that's what the people of Israel like: good and hot carbohydrates."
What are the plans going forward?
Yossi: "The challenge is not to step on the spot, but to move forward, if it's more products and more branches, and of course the quality will be excellent. I also want to open a few more departments of baguettes and pita bread, and plan to expand the factory."
Mimi: "We get requests for franchising all the time. The more we can, the stronger we will be and the more we will continue. We also like to go to the periphery. We have branches in Kiryat Gat, Netivot, Ramle, not necessarily in popular places like Tel Aviv. About three months ago, we opened a branch in Kiryat Shmona. Now it's closed because everyone has been evacuated. From this branch, before it closed, a lot of donations went out to soldiers in the north. In the mornings we even sent them hot coffee."
The war, Mimi says, affected the business mainly in its early days. "At first there was uncertainty, businesses in malls were closed and we didn't open branches in malls at the time. The street branches did stay open, because we understood that bread and cakes are a basic product. As soon as the war broke out, we also thought about how we could contribute. We removed entire pallets of products for soldiers in the south. We had the privilege of contributing and encouraging the fighters. It's not a cliché to say 'together we will win,' it's something we have in mind."
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