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The real reason people rave about Cheskie’s Bakery

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At Cheskie’s, customers are embraced with a sense of warmth, happiness and familiarity. (Photo: supplied)

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The mouthwatering smell of freshly baked goods pulls me towards a small kosher bakery on Bernard Street. The shop is full of cheerful customers (as full as the Covid-19 restrictions allow). What strikes me though, is the diversity of the crowd. The bakery looks like a United Nations Assembly. 

I see a Hassidic guy twirling his Peyos and a woman wearing a floral hijab right behind him. A little farther behind, I notice two young students, pointing excitedly at the sprinkled cookies. Standing at the entrance of the bakery, I see an older gentleman with a small kippah on his head. Immediately, I assume that it must be the tasty pastries dripping with chocolate and the freshly baked bread that bring them all together. 

But after I chat with those customers for several moments, it becomes obvious to me that these people come to Cheskie’s for so much more than the pastries. They tell me that when they walk into Cheskie’s, they are embraced with a sense of warmth, happiness and familiarity. 

 “The smell reminds me of home. The vibe here is so pleasant, that I honestly don’t mind waiting in line,” the elderly gentleman explains. All the customers surrounding him, nod in agreement. 

I take a few moments to look around at the wide array of baked goods. The shelves are stocked with bread, rolls, cookies, and cakes. “All the baked goods here at Cheskie’s are fresh,” a customer informs me. 

Behind the counter, there is a scrumptious looking salad bar, where Cheskie’s sells freshly made sandwiches in a variety of options. The staff prepares the sandwiches on the spot, according to the customer’s liking.  

I chat with Grace, a Cheskie’s employee for the past 8 years, about her experience working in this bustling bakery. “Working here has certainly taught me the skills to become a hard and efficient worker. It’s a busy store, and I have to be quick on my feet.” 

Grace also talks about her exposure to the Hassidic community. “I’ve never come across any Jewish people before I started working here. Everyone is friendly and kind. I’ve learnt lots about the Jewish Holidays and the foods that are associated with them.” 

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But the most important part of my visit is when I meet Mr. Cheskie Lebowitz, the owner of Cheskie’s Bakery. I spot him as he is busy wiping the counter, wearing his baker’s white shirt and white pants. No job seems to be too trivial for Cheskie.  I observe him as he greets his customers like they were his longtime friends. When I watch as he helps a young woman with the stroller, all becomes clear to me.  Cheskie treats his customers like family! It is as simple as that. He treats people with kindness because this is who he is. It is not about making money or selling more cake. If he sees another human needing help, he will reach out. 

The irony is that it is his genuine kindness that brings more people to his bakery. Of course, the food is tasty and fresh, but people feel the passion and warmth with every bite, and that’s the real reason so many people rave about Cheskie’s. 

“My goal is for people to be happy when they leave the bakery,” Cheskie tells me. I assure him that it is definitely the case.  

Several months back, a group of Israeli veterans visited Cheskie’s Bakery owner Cheskie Lebowitz, seen in the centre in white. (Photo: supplied)

Cheskie comes from a humble background. Eighteen years ago, he jumped into the bakery with not much business experience. But with determination and hard work, he has built a successful business for his family. 

Esty Weiss, a daughter of Cheskie and manager at the bakery, talks about her experiences working there for the last 7 years. “I am honoured to be part of this amazing bakery my father built from nothing. Working here has taught me so much about running this business, but more importantly about life in general. I get nuggets of wisdom from my father every day. ” 

As we chat, a delivery guy comes by dropping off several bags of flour. To my utter amazement, Esty hands him two freshly baked chocolate danishes on the house. The guy thanks her profusely, clearly touched by her kindness. Well, I guess she has learnt from her father more than just a great cookie recipe. 

In the Chai anniversary year of operation, Cheskie’s Bakery has become a favorite destination in Montreal (Photo: supplied)

Now is an especially hectic time for Cheskie and his staff, for Hanukkah is around the corner. 

Starting on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, the bakery becomes abuzz with Hanukkah preparations. Esty calls it Operation Doughnut. Cheskie’s sells thousands of doughnuts throughout the eight days of Hanukkah. Jews and non-Jews alike come from all over town to buy some fresh doughnuts. 

Cheskie’s offers several flavours, with jelly as the most popular one. The process of preparing these doughnuts is long and detailed, but Cheskie’s has a staff ready for the work. 

As I bite into a jelly doughnut, I can feel a sliver of that special Hanukah sensation. The combination of these amazing baked goods and Cheskie’s kindness, sure makes Cheskie’s a worthy stop for all Hanukkah delicacies!  

Cheskie’s Bakery is located at 359 Bernard O. Their telephone #: 514-271-2253 To have your business featured here contact: [email protected]

Libby Scher is a freelance journalist living in Montreal. She writes about her local Hasidic community and has been featured in many Jewish publications.

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Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

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