Specialty Food Magazine

FALL 2017

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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FALL 2017 27 PAUL SAGINAW AND ARI WEINZWEIG Zingerman's Community of Businesses Zingerman's Delicatessen opened in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1982, co-founded by Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig. It was always more than a red-brick storefront on a cobblestone street. The partners sought to make positive social change as well as sell high-quality jam, mustard, olive oil, honey, and sandwiches. Inspiration… Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig both graduated from the University of Michigan and met while working at a local restaurant. Weinzweig, a Russian history major, started out as a dishwasher and climbed the ranks in the kitchen. Saginaw, with a degree in zoology, was the general manager. Neither one saw their future at the restaurant and left, though they stayed friends. Saginaw grew up in Detroit and Weinzweig in Chicago, cities that had good delis. Ann Arbor was lacking in that department. Saginaw noticed a vacant store in town and they decided to rent it. Zingerman's was born, a name they thought had 'zing.' They pur- chased the building the following year. "We knew from the beginning we wanted someplace special, not a copy of a New York or Chicago deli," Weinzweig, 60, says. "What we set out to do was make something unique to Ann Arbor." "Initially, our vision was pretty small," Saginaw, 66, says. "We wanted to put out a really, really great sandwich and wanted an orga- nization that would engage the people it employed. Decisions were not going to be made by whoever had the most authority, but by who had a solution to the problem at hand, making everyone personally responsible for the success of the business. I believe the business doesn't solely exist to enrich the shareholders, but to provide a good and meaningful life for everyone who is part of it." Impact… Over time, Saginaw and Weinzweig decided to develop new businesses instead of building a deli franchise. "I've found in the food business that when you go into the fifth or eighth unit it's never as intriguing or energized as the original," Weinzweig explains. "My belief is that business is like art. A Picasso original is amazing, but if I give you a print of the same thing, you're not going to get the same feeling out of it." Because of that philosophy, Zingerman's Community of Businesses is made up of 21 partners and 10 semi-autonomous enti- ties, including Zingerman's Bakehouse, Zingerman's Roadhouse, a creamery, and others devoted to catering, mail order, coffee, candy, a farm, and a Korean restaurant, Miss Kim. "In all humility, we clearly changed the way people eat in this town," Weinzweig says. The partners have about 700 employees and generate more than $60 million in annual sales. Their guiding principles include offering employees a living wage, a benefits package, and profit sharing. "We've had an enormous impact on the nonprofit sector in our community," Saginaw adds, referring to Food Gatherers, one of the first perishable food rescue programs in the country, founded in 1988. Six to seven tons of food are delivered six days a week to local nonprofit organizations that service people in need. The Future… The partners recently renovated the creamery and candy company and next will revamp their coffee shop, expand- ing offerings and seating capacity. They think long-range, and established a vision for 2020 back in 2006. Since 2020 is no longer so far away, they're gearing up to draft plans for 2027 or 2028. "I have no idea what's going to be in it," Saginaw says, "but it will be a group effort and shared with all the employees." "In all humility, we clearly changed the way people eat in this town." PHOTOS: ZINGERMAN'S

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