For most of the year, Eli Aharon and Yonah Bastomski co-run a senior healthcare wellness company, providing older adults with physical trainers once their health insurance no longer covers the service in hospital settings.
But come the High Holy Days season, the two buddies-since-high-school turn their attention toward another entrepreneurial venture — selling sukkahs, schach and supplies for the holiday of Sukkot.
The Sukkah Store, their storefront operation in the heart of Pico-Robertson, is one of a handful of pop-up sukkah shops seemingly springing to life out of nowhere this time of year, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
In addition to Sukkah Store, run in partnership with Sieger Sukkah, there is Sukkah Depot across the street – not to mention the flyers hastily taped to utility poles up and down Pico advertising affordable sukkah-building services.
“We’re one of many small businesses selling sukkahs,” Aharon said, offering a tour of his store on a recent Thursday afternoon. “But we think we offer the highest quality. So, what kind of sukkah are you looking for?”
There are a lot of choices. In the front of their store, their signature Sieger Sukkah stands erect on the sidewalk. In the back, sukkah parts and inventory lean against the walls.
“Made in China,” Aharon pointed out.
The Sieger Sukkah is made of industrial-grade steel. It’s expandable, 8-feet-tall and fits in a bag. Then there is the Open Air Sukkah, which has 100% full mesh walls, making it appropriate for warm LA evenings.
Ronnie Sieger, a sofer (Torah scribe) developed these sukkahs. For more than 25 years, Sieger sold his custom-made sukkahs out of his Pico-Robertson home before relocating to Las Vegas during the pandemic.
“When I mention my name, they go, ‘Oh, you’re the sukkah man.’” – Ronnie Sieger
“The sukkah work, it’s something I take pride in. It’s something I’ve done a long time. It has my name on it,” Sieger told the Journal in 2018. “When I mention my name, they go, ‘Oh, you’re the sukkah man.’ ”
But with Sieger no longer in LA, Aharon and Bastomski – who met at Mesivta Birkas Yitzchok, a local boys yeshiva high school – are now carrying the Sukkah-selling torch.
At the Sukkah Store, other sukkahs for sale include the Deluxe Sukkah, which has a fully enclosed design and waterproof walls, offering full protection from the elements in the rare event of rain.
Perhaps the most novel of their sukkahs is the Travel Sukkah, a portable Sukkah that folds into a small, easy-to-carry bag and pops up in seconds. Sturdy, lightweight and compact and sold with a kosher schach mat, the Travel Sukkah “is sure to enhance your chol hamoed trips,” says the Sukkah Store catalogue.
Each sukkah comes with a five-year warranty. So if something happens to yours and it isn’t your fault, they are returnable. They also come in various sizes; if your young family is expecting more children in the future, buy a larger size now, Bastomski recommends.
“A lot of people try to return their sukkahs after their families have outgrown them,” he said. “We don’t allow that.”
Prices can be steep – the smallest Sieger Sukkah, 6’ x 6’, bundled with schach, is $665, and the largest, 20’ x 20’, goes for $2,845 with schach.
The schach, of course, is crucial to the mitzvah, which dictates the sukkah roofs need to cast more shade than they allow in sunlight. At the Sukkah Store, the bamboo schach mats are woven with natural and unprocessed raffia thread, ensuring they are halachically acceptable.
Generally speaking, the Sunday before Yom Kippur is the busiest day for those in the sukkah trade, but people buy sukkahs right up until the holiday begins, which this year is after sundown Oct. 9.
“It’s a very stressful business because everyone orders at the last minute, so that can be difficult,” Sieger said. “But at the same time, I am happy I can help people have sukkahs in their yards.”