President Obama visits Zingerman’s Deli

The chief executive stops by for lunch

On Wednesday, Zingerman’s Deli received a surprise visit from the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama. The president, who was in town to deliver a speech promoting an increase in the minimum wage at the University of Michigan, decided to have lunch at Zingerman’s Deli.

Zingerman’s co-founder, Paul Saginaw has been a strong proponent of increasing the minimum wage. This past January, he joined other business leaders from around the country and traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with US Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez.

Just after that meeting, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-MI, State Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, and State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor met with Zingerman’s Deli staff and Ann Arbor business owners at the Deli to discuss proposed increases in the state and federal minimum wage. Rep. Dingell praised Paul’s trip to Washington, saying, “It says that there’s conviction there…” President Obama must have agreed with that sentiment, because he invited Paul and Lori Saginaw to attend the speech, and arranged to have them driven to the event.

Instead, Paul, Lori, and the Deli staff were happily surprised when the presidential staff informed them that the president had decided to have one of the Deli’s world-famous sandwiches prior to giving his speech. At that point, police and U.S. Secret Service agents secured the Deli and the surrounding area, closing it off to all traffic.

Detroit st

A few minutes later, the presidential motorcade arrived and out stepped President Obama, along with U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-MI. Paul and Lori met the pair inside the Deli, and gave them a quick tour before ordering lunch.


President Obama ordered a classic #2 Reuben sandwich, along with a crunchy garlic pickle and a side of spinach salad. Rep. Peters joked that since the president was buying, he’d have the same.

President Obama and Rep. Peters then greeted Deli staff and guests, shaking hands and smiling for photos and smartphone videos. One guest briefly lamented that he would be late work, but a guest at another table assured him, “Don’t worry–you have the best excuse ever!” A few minutes later, he was overheard on his phone saying, “You’ll never guess what happened…”






The President then went upstairs to have a private lunch with three servers in various metro area restaurants. The workers, Graham Kovich, of Warren; Aisha Thurman, a mother of three; and Mira Friedlander, a senior at the University of Michigan are all in favor of an increase in the minimum wage.

After lunch, the president again greeted Deli guests:






Then Paul and Lori again joined the president, and all traveled to the University of Michigan’s IM building for the main event. During his speech, President Obama talked about why he decided to stop at Zingerman’s. The remarks were captured on video:

Thank you, Mr. President!

MLive reporter Jessica Webster wrote a nice first-person account of the president’s visit.

Listen to Paul’s remarks about increasing the minimum wage on Michigan Radio’s Stateside program, and about the president’s visit on  Michigan’s Big Show with Michael Patrick Shiels.

 Hail to the Chief!