The (mostly true) origin story of Zingerman’s
Paul Saginaw (Detroit) and Ari Weinzweig (Chicago) met while working at the same restaurant in the late 70s. They dreamed of opening a classic Jewish corner deli in their adopted home (Ann Arbor). When a century old 900 square foot building on a cobblestone street opened up it felt like fate. They opened the doors of Zingerman’s Delicatessen on March 15th, 1982. Think pressed tin ceiling and black and white tiled floor and you’ve got the picture. Five tables, some stools in the window and a menu with twenty five different sandwiches. It was a bohemian food lovers paradise, shopped and staffed by friends. It was—and remains—a bustling food oasis with an awesome mix of regulars, college students, tourists, high school students, parents, visitors, first timers, foodies, fans and adventurers. Please come visit.
We were in commerce before there was e-commerce
Historians speak of a time before the Internet made order of chaos. When cooking shows only aired on PBS. When the celebrity chef du jour was Paul Prudhomme. When no one—I mean no one—took a picture of their dinner. They called it “1992” and it was electric.
It was the year we packed our first box. On a prep table in the basement of Zingerman’s Delicatessen. We haven’t slowed down since. Back then we took orders on carbonless paper in triplicate. We had a touch tone phone and a cassette answering machine we bought at Target for twenty bucks. There are probably adults reading this right now who have no idea what I’m talking about. That’s how long we’ve been shipping great food.
The food is the thing
We swear the food we sell is the best tasting we can find. That’s 1,000% true. But there’s more to it. Like Alexander Hamilton we’re never satisfied. So we keep looking. We’re constantly comparing the food we sell to the new food we find. If we like the new stuff better, that’s what we want to sell. It means constantly tasting and tasting and tasting some more to make sure what was true yesterday is still true today.
We don’t just pull food off a shelf and ship it
Take cheese. It’s a living food that keeps developing and deepening its flavors the longer it stays as a part of the wheel. That’s why we hand-cut your cheese to order directly from the wheel right before we ship it out the door. It’s more difficult than grabbing a pre-packaged wedge from a distributor. It takes lots of training. But the flavor is worth it.
Zingerman’s Bakehouse—same story. They make all our breads and pastries by hand about a mile up the road. They don’t use any preservatives in their breads, they just let the crust be the natural protector of the crumb inside. We wrap it in paper by hand, pack it in boxes by hand, and, well, you get the idea.
It’s all in Ann Arbor, Michigan
We started in this college town. And that’s where we’re staying. We don’t have locations around the country. We don’t have a call center in Iowa. Or India. We don’t fulfill with Amazon. We don’t outsource. We insource.
We are real live human beings
No chatbots. No phone trees. No auto-email. Actually, there’s one, but it’s the most fun auto-email you’ll ever get, promise. When you call, you talk to us. When your order is packed it is packed by us. When we make a mistake, that’s us too. (And we’ll do whatever it takes to make it right.)
Our guarantee is rather crazy
You know how some companies put up a bunch of rules and hurdles to overcome before they’ll give you a refund or ship out a new product? That’s not us. No rules. No returns. If you experience a problem with our food, service, shipping—or even if you simply don’t like how it tastes—let us know. We believe you. We’ll do whatever it takes to make it right. And you never have to return anything.
Our horn, tooted by others
OK it always feels weird to share these kinds of things but they’re also kind of awesome. So here goes.
The reuben is killer.Barack Obama, POTUS #44
Zingerman’s sandwiches are an 11 on a scale of 1 to 5.Oprah, Midwesterner
My favorite store in the cosmos.Jim Harrison, Writer, poet, trencherman
Arguably the best mail order gourmet food specialist in the nation.Larry Olmstead, Forbes
Now that’s a sandwich!Michael Ivins, Flaming Lips bassist, now retired from rock and roll
I ordered brownies for my daughter and her husband in Denver. A coyote got into the box and ate most of the brownies. Not a very nice birthday surprise, but you came to my rescue. We came up with a new (secure) address and you replaced the brownies free of charge. Dave in Holt, Michigan
Zingerman’s—I think everyone around the country should love them.Alejandra Ramos, Today Show
One of the country’s iconic food markets.Kate Krader, Bloomberg
When it comes to the best place in America to buy cheese—OK, let’s all agree there’s absolutely no contest. It’s Zingerman’s.Wall Street Journal
Zingerman’s is a legend.USA Today
Thank you for having a company that ships great food overnight when children forget their parents’ 39th wedding anniversary and are in a bind.Leah in Fredericksburg, Virginia