A Bit of Zingerman’s History

The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (ZCoB) is a family of eight businesses all located in the Ann Arbor area and reflects the novel strategy for business growth created by Zingerman’s Deli founders Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig. Rather than replicating their deli through the franchise model, Paul and Ari instead chose to develop new, independent businesses, all rooted in our local community that work together as one organization. Each business is operated by one or more managing partners who share ownership and put their particular expertise to work in the day to day running of their business. The idea for the ZCoB was laid out in Zingerman’s 2009 vision, written by Ari and Paul in 1994 and highlighted in Bo Burlingham’s 2003 article for Inc. Magazine, “The Coolest Small Company in America.” In 2006, the ZCoB managing partners began work on Zingerman’s 2020 vision. It was completed a year later and paints a picture of the ZCoB at the end of the next decade. Zingerman’s 2020 vision was featured in a New York Times article from June 2007, “The Corner Deli that Dared to Break Out of the Neighborhood.”

Timeline

There have been a lot of highlights in Zingerman’s History. Here are a few of the more notable moments:

1902 The building now known as Zingerman’s Delicatessen is built on the corner of Kingsley & Detroit streets in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It opens as Disderide’s Grocery.
1978 Ari Weinzweig graduates from the University of Michigan and goes to work washing dishes at a local restaurant, Maude’s, where he meets Paul Saginaw, Frank Carollo and Maggie Bayless, his partners-to-be. Ari and Paul begin a conversation about how Ann Arbor could use a traditional Jewish deli like the ones they grew up with in Detroit (Paul) and Chicago (Ari).
1979 Paul opens a fish market in Kerrytown with Mike Monahan (which is still there and still one of the best in the country!)
1981 Paul notices that the building on the corner of Kingsley and Detroit is available. He calls Ari to see if he’s ready to open the deli they’d planned.
1982 Ari and Paul are making final plans to open “Greenberg’s Deli” named in honor of Hannah Greenberg, one of Paul’s regular customers at the fish market. Ari takes a call from another Deli owner in Michigan who has already filed papers with the state to own the name “Greenberg’s Deli.” After being told they can’t use the name, they have a quick brainstorming session to find a new name (since Weinzweig is unpronounceable and Saginaw, though derived from the Jewish name Sagin’ Or – which means “seer of light” – has decidedly non-Jewish connotations in Michigan). They settle on Zingerman’s (in part because it starts with Z and will be easy to spot at the end of the yellow pages).
3/15/1982 Deli BuildingZingerman’s opens its doors for the first time. Ari and Paul are behind the counter making sandwiches and cutting bread and chesses, working with one full-time and one part-time employee. There are five tables and four stools along the couch in the front window. We feature a small but meaningful selection of sandwiches, traditional Jewish foods like chopped liver and chicken soup, cheeses, smoked fish and cured and smoked meats and breads and pastries from local bakeries.
1985 Steve Muno begins work on the cheese line. His inventive sign-making would come to exemplify the Deli’s signature artistic style and his unique handwriting, eventually dubbed ‘Muno’ would become the standard for all Zingerman’s signs and posters. Steve is still a regular a Zingerman’s customer.
1986 Deli BuildingThe 700 square foot addition to the original Zingerman’s building is completed. The pie piece-shaped wedge houses the sandwich line and provides expanded room for dry goods.
1988 Zingerman’s Magic Brownies are baked for the first time. The recipe was developed courtesy of Ms. Connie Prigg, a Zingerman’s staff member at the time who now lives in Baltimore.Zingerman’s begins a food rescue program to feed the hungry in our community. Food Gatherers collects nutritious food from shops, restaurants & hotels and quickly delivers it to the people in need in our community.
1991 Deli Next DoorIan Nagy begins work as Zingerman’s first full-time illustrator (he’s still here too!) and goes on to define the Zingerman’s style that has become famous nationwide thanks to our mail order catalogs.Zingerman’s Next Door coffee shop opens up in a converted residence one door south of the Deli.
1992 April: Frank Carollo, an old friend from Maude’s, gets together with Ari and Paul and meet up with Michael London, bread baker extraordinaire, at his bakery in upstate New York. Michael teaches his techniques to Frank and the seeds of Zingerman’s Bakehouse are planted.October: The first official loaves of bread emerge from the Zingerman’s Bakehouse ovens and head to the Deli bread box and sandwich line. Among the original Bakehouse staff of 8 is Amy Emberling who goes on to manage the Bakehouse bread department then the pastry kitchen and, after a short hiatus to pursue graduate studies in NYC, returns to Ann Arbor to join Frank as Bakehouse co-managing partner.
1993 Mail OrderZingerman’s first mail order catalog is released. Deli employees Mo Frechette and Jude Walton take the lead in shipping food to hungry guests looking to get their Zingerman’s fix from afar. Four years later food writer Ed Behr describes Zingerman’s mail order catalog as “…the more discriminating selection of foods that I am aware of.” 

We write our mission statement and Guiding Principles.

1994 After years of pondering how to grow their business and still stay rooted in the local community (and after rejecting numerous offers to franchise), Ari and Paul release Zingerman’s 2009, a unique vision for organizational growth that plants the seed of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses.Ann Arbor becomes a sweeter place to live when Zingerman’s Bakehouse begins baking sweet stuff to go with bread. The aforementioned Magic Brownies as well as Big O’s (oatmeal raisin cookies baked with real maple syrup), Funky Chunky Chocolate Cookies and amazing cheesecake start emerging from the Bakehouse’s new ovens.

In response to numerous requests from others in the business world to learn the “secrets” to Zingerman’s success, ZingTrain—Zingerman’s consulting and training business—is born under the aegis of Maggie Bayless (a friend from the old days at Maude’s and an early Deli staffer). ZingTrain offers all sorts of interesting information on service, training systems and other tools and techniques used throughout the ZCoB.

1996 Catering TrayZingerman’s Catering, famous for extraordinary deli trays and for bringing “the Zingerman’s experience” beyond the Deli’s doors, is launched. The Deli’s catering department, grows to provide everything from casual meals to planning and catering for 2,000-person events.
1997 Zingerman’s Bakehouse’s new bread bag earns national design recognition from Print Magazine. Zing artists become Print favorites, receiving similar recognition the next three years in a row for four other Zingerman’s design projects.
1998 Food Gatherers delivers over 2,000,000 pounds of food to help feed those in need in Washtenaw County.After three years of outstanding effort, Jude Walton and Maurice (Mo) Frechette make the jump to full-fledged partners of Zingerman’s Mail Order. The push towards Zingerman’s 2009 continues.
1999 With the help of managing partners Tom Root and Toni Morell, Zingermans.com goes online.
2000 Jewish FoodsUSA Today names Zingerman’s one of the country’s top ten places to buy “….a genuine Jewish Nosh.”
2001 Zingerman’s Creamery opens up in Manchester, MI and cheesemaker and managing partner John Loomis begins making fresh cheeses.As demand for ZingTrain seminars and workshops continue to grow, Stas’ Kazmierski joins ZingTrain as Maggie’s co-managing partner.
2002 Zingerman’s Mail Order and zingermans.com merge to become one business headed by Tom, Toni, Mo and Jude.
2003 Chef Alex Young joins the ZCoB as a managing partner and Zingerman’s Roadhouse opens up in the old Bill Knapp’s building at the corner of Jackson and Maple Roads on Ann Arbor’s far west side.Zingerman’s Coffee Company opens and roastmaster and managing partner Allen Leibowitz starts selling Zingerman’s coffee throughout the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses and to wholesale customers throughout the country.

Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service is published and details the steps we take to provide the Zingerman’s Experience for our guests, our staff, our vendors, and our community.

Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating by Ari Weinzweig is published and written up in Fine Cooking, Saveur, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and other national publications at the top of their holiday book gift lists!

Zingerman’s Creamery packs up their Manchester operation and moves to Plaza Drive in Ann Arbor (a scone’s throw from Zingerman’s Bakehouse!) where we now make our cheese and sell them in cheese shop.

2004 Deli retail manager Grace Singleton takes the reins as Deli Manager Partner.Roadshow

Zingerman’s Roadshow, Ann Arbor’s hippest drive up coffee counter, opens in the parking lot of Zingerman’s Roadhouse.

Zingerman’s Coffee is featured in Travel+Leisure as one of the countries top roasters.

2005 The birth of the Zingerman’s candy bar. Zzang bars coming out of the Bakehouse are quickly named “the ultimate handmade candy bar” by Chocolatier magazine.
2006 BAKE! classBAKE!, Ann Arbor’s hands-on teaching bakery and CAKE!, a showroom worthy of the imagination-defying creations from the Bakehouse cake designers opens at Zingerman’s Bakehouse.

For the first time, produce from Alex Young’s Cornman Farms highlights the Roadhouse’s annual Harvest Dinner.

2007 Deli restaurant manager Rick Strutz joins Grace as co-managing partner at the Deli. On March 15, Zingerman’s celebrates our 25th anniversary with a 6000-person street fair on Detroit Street outside the Deli, featuring guests and friends from our first quarter century. We sold 3,044 reubens and 1,241 cappuccinos!Zingerman’s Roadhouse chef Alex Young is nominated for Best Chef-Great Lakes Region by the James Beard Foundation

The New York Times relaunches their Wednesday Small Business section with a feature on the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, “The Corner Deli That Dared to Break Out of the Neighborhood.”

Zingerman’s launches our 2020 vision charting the course for the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses for the next 13 years.

Bon Appetit bestows their Lifetime Achievement award on Ari and Paul (previous winners include such food luminaries as Alice Waters, Jacques Pepin, and Julia Child!)

2008 Zingerman’s Roadhouse chef Alex Young is nominated for Best Chef-Great Lakes Region by the James Beard Foundation

Zingerman’s is featured on Oprah’s sandwich episode and #97 Lisa C.’s Boisterous Brisket is Oprah’s favorite, rating an ‘11’ on a scale of 1-5.

The ZCoB nets a long piece on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday detailing our growth from a corner Deli into a nationally-renowned community of businesses.

Zingerman’s Coffee Company manager Steve Mangigian joins Allen as co-managing partner of the business.

Travel + Leisure features the Roadhouse in a long piece (with lots of great photos) in their November issue.

Charlie Frank opens Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory making handmade candy bars.

2009 Charlie Frank opens Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory making handmade candy bars.Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon, Ari Weinzweig’s tome on pork (featuring bacon history, recipes and lore) is published.

Zingerman’s Coffee Company opens its retail and cafe space.

2010 Zingerman’s hosts its inaugural Camp Bacon, bringing together artisanal bacon makers, including Allan Benton and Herb Eckhouse, and pork enthusiasts from around the world for a celebration of porcine poetry, songs, tasting, learning and more.Publication of A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business, the first volume in Ari Weinzweig’s leadership series.

Rodger Bowser moves from chef to co-managing partner at Zingerman’s Delicatessen.

After a struggle with the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission, Zingerman’s Deli is granted permission to begin its long awaited expansion project!

Alton Brown from the Food Network names the macaroni and cheese at Zingerman’s Roadhouse “America’s Best Comfort Food.”

Inc. magazine hails A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business as one of the “Best Books for Business Owners.”

2011 Jane and Michael Stern, writing in Saveur, name Zingerman’s Bakehouse rye bread as the “very best” in America!

Alex Young, Zingerman’s Roadhouse Chef was named the Best Chef in the Great Lakes Region by the James Beard Foundation.

2012 Publication of A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader.

Zingerman’s celebrates our 30th anniversary.