- Zingerman’s Delicatessen first opened its doors in March 1982 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
- The original founders, Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, met while working at a local restaurant and bonded over a shared love of food.
- Over the past 40+ years, Zingerman’s has grown from a small deli into a community of food-related businesses.
- While the company has expanded, Zingerman’s remains dedicated to its founding principles of great food, great service and great jobs.
- Zingerman’s success demonstrates how a strong vision, culture and commitment to quality can create an iconic, enduring brand.
Zingerman’s Delicatessen, the beloved Ann Arbor institution, has become synonymous with culinary excellence and community service. But when did this Michigan landmark first open its doors? This article will comprehensively trace the origins and history behind Zingerman’s Delicatessen, evaluating key milestones and accomplishments over the past 40+ years. Discover how two steadfast partners transformed their shared passion for food into an iconic brand rooted in purpose, culture and values. This in-depth guide will illustrate how Zingerman’s set a new standard for the deli experience while building a community and culture that has stood the test of time.
For both food lovers and aspiring entrepreneurs, the story of Zingerman’s offers inspiration and lessons on how to turn a small business into something truly exceptional. This article highlights how the company’s beginnings shaped its path, while also charting its continued growth and expanding impact. Through a close look at the specific date and backstory of when Zingerman’s opened in March 1982, readers will gain perspective on how the company was founded and evolved. The article also underscores how Zingerman’s fierce commitment to quality, service and community has remained constant over decades. For anyone interested in food, business, or Michigan history, discovering the origin story of Zingerman’s provides insight into what sets it apart.
When Did Zingerman’s First Open?
How did Zingerman’s get its start?
Zingerman’s Delicatessen first opened its doors in March 1982 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This date marks the humble beginnings of what would eventually become Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, encompassing a bakery, creamery, coffee company, candy manufacturer and more. But what inspired the opening of the original delicatessen?
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, partners Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig met while working together in local Ann Arbor restaurant. Sharing a deep appreciation for delicious food and quality service, Saginaw and Weinzweig bonded over their values and vision for creating a new kind of delicatessen. After years of planning, scouting locations, and refining their concept, Saginaw and Weinzweig opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen on March 9, 1982.
From 17 employees in a small shop, Zingerman’s has since grown to over 700 staff across a community of 18 businesses, generating over $64 million in annual revenue. But its founding origins as a local deli in March 1982 laid the groundwork for the Zingerman’s experience known today.
What defined the original vision for Zingerman’s Delicatessen?
According to the founders, the goal in starting Zingerman’s was simply to operate an excellent traditional Jewish delicatessen. However, their vision went beyond just quality food to encompass exceptional service, an engaging customer experience, and a commitment to staff satisfaction. Central to the founding philosophy was offering traditional deli fare prepared with meticulous care, using high-quality ingredients from small producers. This artisanal approach differentiated Zingerman’s from standard sandwich shops and delis.
Equally important was providing customers not just great food, but also an immersive culinary experience grounded in knowledge, hospitality, and care. From knowledgeable counter staff to their iconic printed menus, every element was thoughtfully crafted at Zingerman’s. The company culture centered on employees, encouraging openness, collaboration, learning, and career growth. These core values of quality, service, and community became guiding tenets as Zingerman’s evolved.
How did Zingerman’s grow from a single deli into a community of businesses?
The immense popularity of the original delicatessen spawned expansion into a bakery in 1993, then a mail-order business and creamery. As offerings grew, so did the company’s dedication to its craft, techniques, and people. After 20 successful years as a delicatessen, Zingerman’s began its transition into a community of food-related businesses united by shared values but varied in product.
Despite impressive growth, Zingerman’s steadfastly protected its brand integrity and standards as it expanded. New businesses went through an extensive planning and vetting process to ensure alignment with the company’s vision. Cultivating knowledge was also essential, with staff engaging in food-immersion trips around the world to enhance expertise. Policies like open-book management empowered employees through knowledge sharing and financial transparency.
From just a bagel bakery in 1993 to 18 unique businesses today, Zingerman’s committed to growing thoughtfully, not expediently. Its community now includes a training division, coffee roaster, candy production, session ale brewery, creamery and even a farm. Staying true to its roots, Zingerman’s continues to reimagine and reinvent food traditions with an artisanal touch.
What sets Zingerman’s apart 40 years later?
Despite the transformations over 40+ years, Zingerman’s remains fiercely dedicated to the principles upon which it was founded. Whether a $20 sandwich or a multi-million dollar business, the commitment to craft, flavor, and community has not wavered. The company’s unique culture and practices empowering staff are still central to operations today. And Zingerman’s steadfast focus on small-batch artisanal food production has only deepened and expanded in scope.
From humble origins as a small deli, Zingerman’s now includes its own cheesemaker, farm, candy factory and nationally distributed foods. Yet it still feels like a community treasure in Ann Arbor, grounded in relationships, traditions, and service. The ethos of co-founders Saginaw and Weinzweig still permeates every aspect of business. Ultimately, Zingerman’s remarkable journey has shown how staying true to core values, while adapting intelligently, can help build an iconic brand that endures.
The Background and History Behind Zingerman’s
How did co-founders Ari and Paul first meet?
The partnership between Zingerman’s co-founders Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig has been core to the company’s identity and success over the past 40 years. But their paths first crossed years before Zingerman’s opened, while working together in an Ann Arbor restaurant.
In 1973, Weinzweig was a University of Michigan student when he began working as a busboy at a classic French restaurant called the Earle. There he met Saginaw, a graduate student who was a bartender at the Earle. The two discovered a shared deep interest in food, spirits, and hospitality. Over shifts together, they bonded over their passion for delivering amazing experiences through service.
After Weinzweig graduated in 1978, he and Saginaw continued to work at the Earle while hatching plans to open their own restaurant. Although that project didn’t materialize, the partners continued seeking the right opportunity to translate their vision into a business. In the early 1980s, they finally identified an ideal space, crafted their concept for Zingerman’s, and began gathering funds and resources to launch the deli. Their fortuitous meeting years earlier laid the groundwork for a pioneering partnership.
What experiences and influences shaped their passion for food?
For both Saginaw and Weinzweig, experiences earlier in life cultivated a profound appreciation of food that guided the founding of Zingerman’s. Growing up in Detroit, Saginaw enjoyed flavorful Jewish deli food and home cooking from his family. Studying cultural anthropology showed him how food brings people together. Weinzweig discovered a love of cooking by necessity as a student. Travels in Europe exposed him to diverse cuisines, wines and cheeses that inspired his discerning palate.
Together, the founders favored traditional dishes prepared meticulously with high-quality ingredients. They valued the community, heritage and craft behind food production. Esta