The question seems simple. But the truth is, it’s just not that easy to answer.
I can tell you that since we opened our doors in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1982, Zingerman’s Delicatessen has become one of the country’s leading specialty food stores. With an emphasis on education, flavor, tradition and integrity of ingredients, we’ve worked to create a living, breathing, active culinary laboratory where one can experience everything from corned beef and noodle kugel, to hand-picked Kalamata olives, to hand made croissants and pretty much everything in between. And in the process we’ve gained a reputation for sourcing unique, full flavored, traditionally made foodstuffs from all over the world.
In essence, and with due modesty, Zingerman’s has become an Ann Arbor institution. In building on that success, the standard model would dictate opening dozens, or even hundreds, of additional Delis all over the country. Instead we decided to pursue a more unusual plan, one which we felt would allow us to build on what we’d successfully started while establishing positive growth opportunities for people within our organization. We chose to create what we call the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses—a collection of Zingerman’s businesses, each with its own food specialty, all located in the Ann Arbor area, each working to help make the shopping and eating in every aspect of Zingerman’s more flavorful and more enjoyable than ever. In each business we’ve sought out a managing partner or partners so that there will be someone to bring the day to day passion and persistence that it takes to be really good at anything into play on a day to day basis. Paul and I are there to provide guidance, support, leadership and whatever else we need to do, which includes everything from writing this essay to lots of tasting, tracking down great food, contributing to the community, providing plenty of training classes, leadership work at all levels all the way through clearing tables and emptying the trash.
On any given day, as I write, the Zingerman’s Experience is now made and delivered by nearly six hundred people—partners, managers and staff in ten different businesses in addition to the Deli—to the tune of roughly $60,000,000 in annual sales. There’s a great deal more detail available on the various Zingerman’s websites and you can click here for a quick guide to the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses.