Business, News, Our Businesses, ZCoBbers, ZingLife

A message from Ari to our Community in the midst of Covid-19


Friends, colleagues, customers, community,

I’ve been holding off a bit on writing something over the last week. In the flood of messages about the Coronavirus (Covid-19), I keep waiting to be able to offer some new insight, a more holistic approach, or better still—a solution. I alternate between wishing it wasn’t happening (denial) and wishing I could tell you that eating more bacon, rye bread, barbecue, or brownies kept you from getting it (magical thinking). Unfortunately, neither of those is true. This is clearly very, very serious stuff, to which no one, least of all me, has the answers. 

The situation, as you already know as well as I do, continues to change by the hour.  As we go forward, we will continue to check CDC and Health Department updates and immediately work to adhere to their recommendations. What I do know right now as I write is:

  1. Everyone at Zingerman’s is taking this extremely seriously. We’re doing everything possible to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in our businesses. All of the things that you’ve read online—because we’re reading the same CDC messages everyone else is—have been actively implemented in all of our businesses. While each Zingerman’s business has its own specific applications, everyone is doubling—nay, quadrupling down—on all of the strict sanitation practices we have always adhered to. More aggressive—near-constant—handwashing, wiping down of surfaces (chairs, counters, doors, door handles, etc.) with sanitizer, proper temperature controls, and wariness of cross-contamination (we don’t want to forget while the headlines are rightly focused on the virus that is disrupting the entire world, basic food safety rules are all still imperative). We have additional sanitizer in all the businesses and are using it—as everyone else is—at record rates.
  2. We are—as we have since we first opened—doing the best we can to provide a positive, supportive, and healthy workplace for our coworkers. As always—more now than ever—we encourage folks who feel even “sort of sick” not to come to work. We know this is very real. And we have a major obligation to do our part in holding the virus at bay as best we can.
  3. We have had paid time off for our staff for so long I can’t remember when we started it. We have always allowed folks to take additional time off as well. We have provided health care benefits for over 20 years now. We have a long list of other benefits we offer, which I won’t repeat here. We also have long had—at Paul’s suggestion many years ago—a Community Chest which is a fund available (in confidence) to staff members in crisis. None of these are shared to imply we’re so great, but merely to answer the questions in the news about employees being able to get through this situation without having to work when they’re ill. This week we just added a temporary boost in PTO possibilities for staff in anticipation of the struggles that will come for folks as they work to get through this.  Realistically, given what we know, this will not be enough for folks. While we’re “big” by some standards, we’re still a small business by the world’s standards and the resources don’t match up to what we’d ideally like to be able to do. We’re hoping that Federal or State governments will come through with aid and support for our staff.
  4. We’re encouraging staff to stay healthy in proactive ways—the positive work we need to do to take care of ourselves. Everything I read, and my own physicians, regularly tell me that a good diet, exercise, plenty of sleep, vitamins, and effective hydration all help boost immune systems.  And right now, we’ll take all the help we can get.
  5. We’re all in this together! We have over 700 people who are part of the Zingerman’s Community, including 18 managing partners and over 200 staff members who own a share in the organization. Paul and I started the Deli in 1982. (Coincidentally, March 15 was our 38th anniversary, though needless to say, there weren’t any big organizational celebrations this year.) We would never have made it out of that first uncertain year without YOU. From Day One, Paul and I have both strongly believed—known, actually—that we need our customers and our coworkers more than they need us. And that our work has always been to give people really good reasons to want to come shop, eat, and work with us. That remains true today, clearly, with some new challenges in the mix. We are working hard, every day, together, to figure out how we can serve you all in what, at least for the next few months and maybe much longer, is the new normal.

I know many of you won’t believe it, but I’m actually a totally shy introvert who would prefer to stay home on my own. “Social distancing,” for me, is my normal state. What’s hard for me isn’t being away from people—it’s going out in public. But at the same time, when I don’t see you all, paradoxically, and very positively, I miss you! Priya Parker, in her fine book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters, shares in her preface that “My hope is that this book will help you think differently about your gatherings.” Given the state of the current situation we’re all in—together—our work is to figure out how to help all of us to think differently about how to gather while still being safe and sanitary. 

Clearly, the news and understanding of the virus is changing almost hourly. Like every other caring leader you know—and the odds are you know many—we’re doing our best to respond as quickly, caringly, and effectively as possible. After conferring with the Washtenaw County Health Dept and a number of physicians we have decided to keep our businesses open. By doing so, we help provide the sort of comforting place that we have for the last 38 years. We help our staff stay employed. We help support the many small artisans we buy from and keep their staff employed as well. 

Some folks in town will understandably and appropriately choose to stay home right now. The good news is that we can still serve you and offer you full-flavored, traditional food, and a positive Zingerman’s Experience in a wide range of ways: 

  • The Deli and Miss Kim have already been using delivery services and will continue to. 
  • The Roadhouse is now offering food and wine delivery. 
  • The Roadshow has been a steady source of drive-through food and drink for 15 years now—you don’t even have to get out of your car! (Bottles of wine are 30% off when you buy them through the Roadshow!). Swing by and grab some good food to go!
  • The Deli has curbside pick-up service so you can get food without leaving the car. Groceries or sandwiches, bread, or brownies, olive oil or cheese. Call ahead and pick up! 
  • The Bakehouse Bakeshop, Coffee Co., and Cream Top Shop have pick-up service as well at Zingerman’s Southside. Call ahead and let us know and we’ll bring your order from the shops out to your car.
  • The Deli’s Catering and Events have delivery available every day at no added cost through April 20. The Roadhouse catering crew offer delivery too. Obviously big groups are out but . . . small ones? 
  • Cornman Farms’ Pie & Mash, which runs through April 5, now has drive-thru pie pick up!
  • Oh yeah, if you want to feed your mind, ZingTrain can deliver webinars, books, pamphlets and the like without you having to leave your house! 
  • And . . . Zingerman’s Mail Order, by definition, is all about getting good food to folks. You don’t need to really get close to anyone to have access to good things to eat. You can have food delivered in town too!

In our 38 years, we’ve been through massive inflation, recession, 9/11, 2009. We will figure out—together, all of us—how to get through this. If we can be of help in any way at all, please let us know. Even if you just want to talk, we’d love to hear from you. Call, email, drive by for pick up.

Thank you for letting us be part of this incredible community for all these years. Thank you for the chance to serve you. Thank you for being patient with us and with each other and with the universe while we all figure this out. As many of you remind me, and I remind others, we’re gonna get through this. Together. 

Sending good thoughts to you and everyone!



March 18, 2020