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As entrepreneurs, Hasidim have the opportunity to create work environments that operate on their terms. Niederman pointed to B&H, the Hasidic-owned photo and electronics superstore that closes on Friday and Saturday for the Sabbath and employs hundreds of Orthodox associates.
That’s the path Lipschitz hopes to follow.
“The only education I got was from yeshiva,” he said. “So basically this is what’s called street smart, not book smart.”
Lipschitz inherited the entrepreneurial bug from his father, who made a small fortune collecting the de-icing fluid that drained off airport runways, distilling it in vats in Newark, N.J., and selling it back to America’s military for use in Iraq. The operation went bust in the economic upheaval of 2008, when the price of the diesel needed for it suddenly skyrocketed. But Lipschitz says his father’s venture inspired him to go out and take his own risks. “If you don’t go big, you’ll never get big,” he remembered him saying.
Out of a job, and itching to find a way to support his family, he bought a store from his brother-in-law about two years ago. The shop sold rubber bands, Crocs shoes and other odds and ends. But on Lipschitz’s first day behind the counter, a customer wandered in, asking for a sharpener. Lipschitz didn’t have one, but he wrote down the item — beginning a precise running tally of neighborhood demand.
On stroller-jammed Lee Avenue, it seemed that what everyone was demanding was supplies for kids. Lipschitz sprang into action, calling wholesalers and snapping up any item on his list that he could find at a discount: overstocked pencils, Silly Bandz bracelets, boxes of misprinted Arizona Cardinals notebooks and — to the delight of his two small children — toys.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Lipschitz showed off one of his newest items, a giant Lego-style Binyan Blocks synagogue set selling for $59.99. Pictured on the back of the box, tiny Lego men with plastic-fur shtreimel hats and women with coiffed hair sit in separate sections, attending to a miniature Lego rabbi with a purple plastic Torah. A sticker calendar on an interior wall announces the time of sunset.
“When I walk into a showroom where they sell toys, 80% of the items I can’t even bring in,” Lipschitz said, explaining the conspicuous absence of Barbie and Betty Boop from his shop. “Modesty is a very big thing for us; we try to bring in toys that match our values.” The same goes for Bratz dolls; Lipschitz said that he’d just been offered a closeout-price shipment of these and “didn’t even look at them.”
But aside from modesty, Lipschitz says it’s another value that really drives his toy selection. Some of his most popular items are toys you can build and make with, like 3-D foam art stickers, or weavable Loom Bands friendship bracelets.