Photo Credit: The Cohens
Tops Liquor, with its signature maroon canopy awning, on Avenue U in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn.

When Jeff Cohen, owner of Tops Liquor, decided to make a personal decision to benefit his family by closing his store for Shabbos, he never anticipated the positive uproar it would unleash.

Tops Liquor, with its signature maroon canopy awning, has been a community favorite spot for oenophiles and drink aficionados for over 80 years. Situated on Avenue U in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn, the store is run as a family business with Jeff taking it over from his father Howie, who inherited the business from his uncle.


Cohen, who always prides himself in celebrating his heritage, admits that although he attended Hebrew school as a child, he was never overly religious. About 15 years ago, he started dabbling into becoming more observant after a long talk with devoted customer, Dovi Weiser, who invited Jeff and his wife Meredith to a Shabbos meal. Keeping Shabbos and closing the store was something that Jeff thought about doing, but was hesitant about because of its potential negative consequences on the bottom line. The family, Cohen notes, is extremely devoted to the business and has worked in the store long hours, seven days a week.

Finally, in January, encouraged by the aftereffects of the Oct. 7 attack, Cohen took the plunge. “It was a small step for my family,” he tells me one busy Thursday morning, “but perhaps other than being a father, it was the biggest step of my entire life.” Cohen credits keeping Shabbos for dramatically improving the quality of his life exclaiming, “The fact that I get to toss my phone, forget about business, and just be present with my wife and daughter is amazing. I’m 55 years old and I’m just learning now that Shabbos is what life is all about.”

Jeff and Meredith Cohen

Cohen says that keeping Shabbos is like winning the lottery. Every morning as he gets ready to show up for work, he talks to Hashem, thanking him for this weekly gift and contemplating, “Is this really my life now?!”

Cohen is quick to clarify that it is not the Oct. 7 massacre that triggered this decision. Closing for Shabbos has been on his mind for years, but the horrific attack was a catalyst letting him know that now is the ideal time to pop the cork on this matter saying, “This is what the Jewish people need now; this is what I need to do now.”

Cohen says that he was impressed how Jews of all backgrounds came together after the attack in unity not allowing their nation to fall apart, and he knew that being shomer Shabbos would be another link in that Jewish chain of achdus.

Although the unassuming liquor store is 10,000 square feet, the impact of Cohen’s decision has reached thousands of people worldwide. When Cohen posted a video on Project Inspire explaining the reason why Tops Liquors will be open only six days a week, the news went viral. Cohen tells me that he has gotten calls and visits from rabbis from practically every continent telling him how proud they are.

“I have 350-pound men coming in here balling, giving me hugs,” he exclaims. “You would think they were the ones getting a day off; people are happier than me!” Cohen has been told that his move has inspired other people to become shomer Shabbos and one man from Russia even attributed his putting on tefillin to Cohen.

Cohen says that Tops Liquor didn’t promote this news, but somehow this family decision spiraled out of control and reached every corner of the world making Cohen feel like a celebrity. “Every day when I enter Tops, I feel like I have two million cheerleaders cheering me on, “ he says.

Perhaps his biggest fan is his wife, Meredith, whom Cohen credits for always encouraging him and supporting him in all his endeavors. “Behind every great man there is an even greater women, and that is certainly true in my case,” says Cohen.

I ask if there has been any backlash to the closing, and he responds in the negative saying even the non-Jewish employees are thrilled with the idea. “They are ecstatic too; they get to leave early on Fridays and get Saturdays off.” I ask if sales have been affected and Cohen responds that it is too early to tell since Pesach is still a few weeks away and that’s when they can analyze the finances. He also commented that they would be closed Easter weekend, which tends to bring in a lot of customers, but he is not worried since, “the community is backing me up 100% and the support is beyond overwhelming.”

Social media posts affirm Cohen’s claims with customers and even new customers applauding the closure, promising to frequent the establishment because of this move. For example, Dov Herman commented in one Facebook group, “I can’t tell you how many times I went out of my way to help support other liquor stores who are shomer Shabbos even though I was near Tops. Tops often had much better prices but I try my best to support shomer Shabbos stores. I’m so happy for the family and I’m looking forward to supporting your newly shomer Shabbos store.” Or Lital G., who wrote on Facebook, “I love this story! Going forward I will exclusively go to Tops Liquor for my wine.”

Thinking about the effects of Oct. 7, Cohen pondered, “Where else would people run to a country that’s at war? I’ve never seen my customers run back to Israel so quickly – four, even five times.” Top Liquor has joined the efforts to raise money for the victims. In February, hey began a promotion on Israeli wines, offering an 18% discount in order to raise money for Israeli wineries. The promo will continue through Pesach.

They say one mitzvah leads to another, and that is certainly the case with Tops Liquor. Cohen says the place has become a hub with customers now inviting him to their homes for meals, bringing over challah, and he was even gifted with a new pair of tefillin.

Closing on Saturdays has had a positive effect on the business’s work ethic as well. Cohen reports that everyone eagerly anticipates returning to work on Sunday morning because they know they will be greeted with an endless barrage of compliments and support. He comments how some customers will walk in and no words need to be exchanged. The just look at him, tear up, or give him a pat on the back, and it’s a mutual meeting of the mind and heart

It’s been two months since Cohen made the decision and he assumed that the momentum would subside, but it hasn’t. Besides for multiple media outlets running this story, he tells me that the phones have been ringing non-stop with people calling to praise the store, to the point that Meredith now has to screen his calls. He also tells me that customers come in every day giving him a hug, thumbs up, and even tearing up revealing how being shomer Shabbos has moved them.

I ask what’s next for Tops Liquor and Cohen says his mind is racing with ideas. He is reluctant to share them as he doesn’t want to be overwhelmed, but ends off saying that closing for Shabbos has “flipped his world” and allowed him to live his best life with peace, tranquility, and no fear.”

Cheers to that!


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Ita Yankovich is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in various Jewish and secular publications. She also teaches English and Literature at Kingsborough College and Touro College. She can be reached at [email protected].