In the days leading up to Sukkot, Sukkah Depot, a superstore that’s been compared to Wal-Mart (except that it only sells Sukkot-related items and there are no guns of any kind on the premises), was busy selling off as much of its inventory as it could. From sukkahs to wall decorations to the leafy s’chach, the traditional sukkah roof covering, the shop’s Web site, www.sukkahdepot.com, was doing some of its best business ever. (Merchandise can also be bought at the company’s various partner stores in the United States and Canada.) And according to those in the know in the chic world of all things Sukkot, the laminated panel sukkah is the new black.
“We can’t seem to be making enough of them,” said Yehuda Efune, a customer service representative at the company’s Atlantic Avenue call center in Brooklyn. “The demand keeps getting bigger.”
The sukkah, which can be purchased in sizes ranging from the basic 8 by 10 (for $1,079) to the roomier 10 by 16 (for $1,503), and which Efune termed the “Rolls Royce of Sukkahs,” comes complete with all the necessary accoutrements to put up this allegedly simple-to-assemble wonder. According to the site, “The panels are easy to put together — no tools or screws necessary.” So even the least handy of fathers — as many a Torah-learning man is — can presumably put this bad boy together with nary a hammer-smashed thumb.
Made of laminated, pressed-wood panels and an aluminum frame, this sukkah comes with a real door and lock — perfect for keeping out all the holiday riffraff. The interior is maple colored, the exterior is walnut and the sukkah is wheelchair accessible, so you can invite Bubbe again this year. But, despite the hefty prices, s’chach is not included. Even those who purchase the already-bedecked “sunny and decorated” versions of the sukkah have to pay extra for their s’chach. These sukkahs, which can include regular or stained glass windows painted by Israeli artist Aharon Shevo, start at $1,261. And while the decorated part is always definite, the sunlight’s not guaranteed — even at that cost.
Another top seller for Sukkah Depot, which has been in operation for more than 30 years and touts itself as “the largest sukkah distributor in the world,” is the Royal Ease Lock Sukkah — the “most widely sold sukkah in the world,” according to the site. The Royal Ease Lock, which comes in a variety of sizes and ranges in price from $285 (for a 4-by-6 sukkah) to $1,046 (for a 12-by-20 sukkah), is made of galvanized iron to prevent rust. This is a big plus for sukkah buyers in rain-prone climates. The outer cloth covering is parachute texture, making it resistant to tearing (but it cannot and should not be used when jumping out of a plane). The sukkah folds up small enough to fit easily into the corner of any basement, so there are no more excuses for those people who don’t bother to take down their sukkahs after the holiday is over. Sure you can wait a few weeks, but come Hanukkah that baby had better be hidden somewhere, awaiting its grand comeback in the fall.
For just a few dollars more, buyers can purchase their s’chach together with the Royal Ease — or separately if they choose. Sukkah Depot sells two different types: bamboo s’chach, which is made of bamboo strips joined together by a raffia palm, and “Kney-Soof S’chach,” tied together by reeds. Both kinds sell for under $200 and are made from all-natural ingredients, making them kosher for sukkah use. But since technically all you need to cover your sukkah is something that grew in the earth, you can save yourself a few bucks and cut some random branches in your yard to throw up top. It may not be exactly what the rabbis recommend, but hey, they’re not paying for this now, are they?
The panel sukkah and the Royal Ease Lock are great for families with houses and yards, but some Jews simply don’t have the space for such colossal cabins. So what is an apartment-dwelling Jew to do?
Why, buy a PopUp Sukkah, of course, says Efune’s brother, Sukkah Depot sales manager Dovid.
The PopUp Sukkah, which weighs just 7 pounds and folds to one-inch flat (or, as Dovid Efune put it, “the size of a giant matzo”), is just 54-by-54 inches and more than 6-feet tall. Assembly is simple: “Just toss it in the air,” it says on its site, www.popupsukkah.com. The sukkah, which sells for $219, is a major space-saver for members of the tribe who lack storage areas.
Yet while the PopUp can fit on even the most snug of fire escapes, buyers need to remember that the sky must be visible above the s’chach. So if your terrace is below another overhanging porch, you’d be better off saving your money and using your synagogue’s terrace (or mooching off a friend). There are tons of sukkahs to be had this year, and Sukkah Depot’s got most of them, but while the shop can provide you with everything you need to build your sukkah from the bottom up, it can’t ensure that your holiday is enjoyable. That, of course, might entail doing away with some of your relatives. And as already established, this isn’t the superstore for that — no guns or ammo here.
Leah Hochbaum is a freelance writer living in New York.