Three loaves from Irving's Premium Challah. (Photo/irvprem.com)
Three loaves from Irving's Premium Challah. (Photo/irvprem.com)

Challin’ it quits: Irving Greisman retires after 20 years of baking

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After 20 years of delivering freshly baked challah to Jewish schools, institutions and stores, as well as to people’s homes, Irving Greisman, founder of Irving’s Premium Challah, is retiring from the bread business.

On March 27, he sent an email to his customers, saying the coming weekend would be his last. He is hoping a buyer will come forward to keep the business going.

“It has been our distinct honor to have our challah become an integral part of your Simchas for the last twenty years,” the email said. “We deeply cherish the privilege of being woven into the fabric of your lives through our products. We express our heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity to serve you and look forward to continuing this journey together.”

Greisman told J. that at his age, he feels he wants to use his time in other ways.

“I’m 76, how many years do I have?” he said. “I just want to enjoy my time.” When asked why he ended his run so suddenly, he said “I don’t wait, I just think about it and do it. That’s just my nature.”

Greisman is a former programmer and manager in the tech field, working with major clients such as Bank of America and Sony. But he always felt at home in the kitchen, and after he lost his job in the dot-com collapse in 2004, he began baking challahs for the children in his wife’s classes at Congregation Sherith Israel. His challah became so popular that people began asking for it, and from there a business was born in partnership with his son Ben, then a high school senior.

I’m 76, how many years do I have? I just want to enjoy my time.

Just last year, Mimi Greisman published a children’s book with illustrator Shih-ying Chao called “The Story of Irving’s Premium Challah,” about how her husband’s business got started.

Irving began baking the challahs in his home kitchen, but in less than a year the orders grew from 60 loaves a week to 400, and he knew he had outgrown the space. He shared his recipe with Wedemeyer Bakery in South San Francisco, and it’s been making the challahs ever since. They are certified kosher by Sunrise Kosher, the Vaad Ha-Kashrut of Northern California.

During the final week in business, Irving’s delivery drivers had 193 stops to make, he said. During the Covid pandemic, when institutions and schools shut down, he pivoted to home delivery and that remained in place as his primary customer base until the end. 

After 40 years in the tech field, Greisman said he still has an interest in it and might spend some of his time volunteering in some kind of civic capacity.

“Tech has always been my passion,” he said.

Greisman said he’s had many calls from potential buyers, and sounded confident that the right one would surface.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."