Top 50 Retailers
In the following pages and online at www.gourmetretailer.com, we honor the Top 50 Retailers, including our Retailers of the Year. Choosing just 50 was a difficult task. Some retailers were nominated by their sales representatives and spouses, others nominated the stores they own or where they proudly work, and we added a few of our favorites, too. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their stories.
We will honor these retailers as well as our Industry Innovators for 2010 at a special cocktail reception on January 16 in San Francisco.
A Southern Season
Chapel Hill, N.C.
A Southern Season began in 1975 when owner Michael Cooper Barefoot opened an 800-square-foot coffee roaster and gourmet shop in the rural college community of Chapel Hill, N.C. Soon it moved into a much larger space that Craig Claiborne, writing in the New York Times, called "wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, a visual and gustatory delight." In 2003, they opened their 60,000-square-foot flagship "gourmet emporium" in University Mall, just around the corner from the original shop, in which they offer an extensive line of fresh and packaged goods, housewares and tabletop, catering, gift baskets and CLASS (Culinary Lessons at A Southern Season), their state-of-the-art cooking school. It also maintains a wholesale division, Weathervane restaurant, and a concession at RDU International Airport.
Once a destination for gourmets, the company also serves as an illustration of the growth and evolution of the gourmet industry. The store's success and its position in the industry is attributable to its constant ability to adapt and change, while retaining its mission to provide individual customer service and remaining true to its gourmet roots.
Named for a street in West Los Angeles, Bristol Farms began in 1982 in Rolling Hills, Calif., as a venue for fresh and specialty foods from around the world. In 1986, it opened in Pasadena, and its store in Manhattan Beach, opened in 1991, offers catering and a cooking school. In 2000, it converted the location of the former Chasen's restaurant to serve the Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles areas. Today, it operates eight stores in Los Angeles County and five more located throughout Southern California and San Francisco. Each store's design is evocative of the local area (it even kept the high-backed leather booths at Chasen's) as well as an integral part of the community through its many philanthropic activities such as City of Hope and the Muscular Dystrophy association. Bristol Farms has been called "the best small market" along with other accolades, including high marks in overall quality and service by Zagat Marketplace Survey.
The idea for Central Market was born in 1992 when H.E. Butt Grocery Co.'s owner, Charles Butt, wanted to take grocery shopping to an experience beyond traditional grocery stores, including the 300-plus HEB stores throughout Texas and Northern Mexico. He turned to longtime HEB employee John Campbell to make his vision happen, and after traveling to many of the world's greatest markets in Europe, Central Market opened its first store in Austin in 1994, followed by several more stores in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Plano, and their newest store (2006) in Southlake in North Texas. Their European-style fresh market concept has been called "an amusement park for food lovers," offering many products that Texas consumers can't find anyplace else. The original store in Austin has become one of the city's most popular tourist destinations, with more than 2 million visitors each year. Today, Central Market is a model for specialty food stores throughout the world.
The two Chopping Block stores in Chicago offer best-in-class items in kitchenware, tabletop and gourmet food items. Both stores, a 4,000-square-foot location in Lincoln Square and an 8,000-square-foot store in the open-to-the public section of the Merchandise Mart, offer hundreds of cooking classes per month for a wide range of culinary skill levels. Owner Shelley Young, her staff and outside chefs offer a broad set of classes in the stores' multiple educational kitchens. The Chopping Block even offers a weeklong cooking bootcamp class that covers a selection of culinary skills for the amateur home chef. Also, the retailer is using mobile couponing.
Cook's Warehouse owner and founder Mary Moore operates three kitchenware stores in the Atlanta area. Even during the recession, Moore continued to advertise her business and remained committed to community involvement and supportive of local events.
At its three stores, Cook's Warehouse offers more than 15,000 products. The company also operates the largest avocational cooking school in the Southeast, conducting more than 600 classes each year.
Established in 1912, Citarella continues to be a family-run business that has grown from a venerable seafood shop into one of the top food destinations in Manhattan and the Hamptons, thanks to the driving passion and vision of owner Joe Gurrera, who also is known as Mr. Citarella. Over time, Gurrera expanded Citarella's selection to include the highest quality prime meats, the finest produce, chef-prepared foods and pastries, artisan cheeses, charcuterie and gourmet groceries.
Gurrera was able to develop a unique vertical strategy in the marketplace for seafood that allows the six stores to have access to the freshest and most varied seafood available. More than 25 years ago, Citarella purchased a whole fish company to eliminate the middleman. In 2008, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce recognized Gurrera as Retailer of the Year.
Dean & DeLuca
Joel Dean and Giorgio DeLuca began a food revolution in this country when they opened their eponymous food shop in 1977. They brought in extra-virgin olive oils from Italy, artisanal vinegars from France and cheeses from everywhere, introduced American consumers to balsamic vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes, and sold commercial-grade cookware and tools, all in their sleek and sophisticated, yet completely utilitarian, store in New York's Soho district. Partner Jack Ceglic designed the space, all white with steel wire shelving — a neutrality that allowed the food and housewares to be the stars and decoration. From the black-and-white tile floor to the revolving fans on the ceiling, the original store has been copied in gourmet stores across the country and more recently in Europe. Today, Dean & DeLuca has 14 retail locations in the United States, including New York; Washington, D.C.; St. Helena in Napa Valley; Charlotte, N.C.; and the Kansas City metropolitan area. They also have expanded internationally, with several markets and cafés in Japan, one in Qatar and plans to open another one soon in Buenos Aires.
Dorothy Lane Market
Although no longer located on Dorothy Lane, this family-owned business in Dayton, Ohio, has been innovative from the beginning, but especially since Norman Mayne and his son Calvin took the reins. Dorothy Lane Market (DLM) began as a roadside fruit stand in 1948, and since that time, it has grown to include three stores, all in the Dayton area. Besides their thoughtful selection of food and a deep commitment to quality, what really sets DLM apart from the competition is its unique approach to customer service. In 1995, Mayne launched Club DLM, arguably the most radical loyalty program in the supermarket industry. Customers routinely have received turkeys at Thanksgiving, invitations to concerts, and bouquets of flowers, in addition to the regular savings they receive as Club DLM members.
Gourmet Retailer's Kitchenware Retailer of the Year & 2010 GIA Nominee
Menlo Park, Calif.
From its genesis in 1925 as a German delicatessen in San Francisco, Draeger's has grown to become one of the most successful and most revered food stores in the San Francisco Bay Area. Grandson Richard Draeger now is at the helm of operations for the family-owned business that spans every facet of the gourmet food world. Besides offering a vast array of specialty foods and packaged, fresh and prepared foods, it has an entire upper level devoted to an extensive selection of housewares, cookbooks and tabletop items. In addition, it operates a fine dining restaurant on the premises (Viognier) that is considered one of the best in the Bay Area, a cooking school, a catering business, a floral service, its own smokehouse and even a sushi bar. Draeger's is one of the leading lights in an area renowned for the quality of the food.
Beginning in 1972 with a produce market, owners Harold Seybert, David Sneddon and Howard Glickman expanded their operation over the years to become one of the premier specialty stores in a city known for its premier specialty stores. They were joined in the early 1980s by cheesemonger and food impresario Steve Jenkins, who helped them expand and eventually turn Fairway into a merchandising poster child, and one of the busiest and most successful food stores in the Tri-state area.
In addition to the Broadway store, Fairway has added seven more locations in and around New York, including Harlem; the Red Hook section of Brooklyn; Plainview on Long Island; Paramus, N.J.; Stamford, Conn.; and Pelham Manor, N.Y. One of the things that sets Fairway apart from its competitors is in its owners' tireless search for products that are new and unique, much of which they import themselves, including a sterling assortment of extra-virgin olive oils, perhaps the best and most affordable selection in the city.
Working alongside their son Kurt and a savvy, well-trained staff, owners Ihsan and Valerie Gurdal now have three locations: their flagship in Cambridge, Mass., South End Formaggio in Boston's South End neighborhood and Formaggio Essex in New York City's Essex Street Market.
Over the years, Formaggio Kitchen has built its reputation on sourcing unique, handmade cheeses; charcuterie; condiments; olive oils; vinegars; and preserves from small producers in the United States and beyond. Oftentimes, the Gurdals import the products direct.
A testament to its lasting impact on the gourmet retail industry, Formaggio Kitchen has been the training ground for many specialty retail entrepreneurs who have gone on to open their own gourmet shops. Formaggio Kitchen's alumni list is a who's who in specialty retail, including Matt Jennings, Farmstead and La Laiterie, Providence, R.I.; Jeremy Kirkpatrick, Grand Trunk, Newburyport, Mass.; Vince Maniaci, Cheese Iron, Scarborough, Maine; Matt Rubiner, Rubiner's Cheesemongers and Grocers, Great Barrington, Mass.; Jason Sobocinski, Caseus, New Haven, Conn.; and Carolyn Welch and Renee Hardie, Joppa Fine Foods, Newburyport, Mass.
Not surprising, Formaggio Kitchen has received numerous accolades since it has been in business, from the New York Times, Saveur, Gourmet, Boston Magazine and more.
Pastoral Artisan Bread Cheese & Wine
In its six years in business, Pastoral Artisan Cheese and Wine has established itself as Chicago's pre-eminent destination for artisan and farmstead cheeses that are cut to order, charcuterie, wine, sandwiches and other gourmet staples.
Partners Greg O'Neill and Ken Miller wanted to create a true specialty shop and took inspiration from specialty shops in the United States and in Europe.
Each of the three locations — North Clark Street, Lake Street in the Loop and its newest location at the Chicago French Market — has its unique strengths. The Clark street store is the hub for the store's mail-order business (it has done holiday promotions with Williams-Sonoma in past years), while the Lake Street store has in-store seating and serves wines by the glass as well as cheese plates. It also is home for the store's bustling wholesale-to-restaurant business. And the year-old location at the French Market is establishing a lucrative lunch business.
PCC Natural Markets
PCC Natural Markets, formerly Puget Consumers Co-op, began as a food-buying club of 15 families in 1953. Today, it's the largest natural food cooperative in the United States, operating nine certified organic stores in the Puget Sound region.
To attract more non-member customers and to reinforce a consistent look and feel from store to store, the co-op underwent a major rebranding campaign a few years ago. As part of its community outreach efforts, PCC hosts one of the largest natural products fairs on the West Coast. The two-day Healthy Living Fair is free to the public, and features vendors sampling and sharing information about more than 600 natural and organic food, health and personal care products. The stores also offer demonstration and hands-on cooking classes.
Over the years, PCC has remained committed to its core values and been a trailblazer on many food-related issues as well as an active advocate of the organic standards, also taking a stance against genetically modified organisms. Back in 2007, the stores removed products containing the controversial sweetener high-fructose corn syrup and eliminated all dairy products containing the artificial growth hormone rBGH.
PCC has stringent standards for the products it carries. Meats are from range-grazed animals raised without hormones or antibiotics, fish are sustainably harvested, and products are not tested on animals.
The Spanish Table
For more than 15 years, The Spanish Table has been celebrating the flavors of Spain and Portugal. It offers traditional foods, including extra virgin olive oils, oils, pimenton and paprika as well as varied wines, cookware, music, books, and everything needed to cook and eat in the Iberian tradition. Owner Steve Winston has created four brick-and-mortar stores in Seattle, Berkeley and Mill Valley, Calif., and in Santa Fe, N.M., plus two vibrant online retail sites, www.spanishtable.com and www.spanishtablewines.com In September2009, The Spanish Table opened its newest venture, Paris Grocery, a stone's throw from its Seattle store.
Rice Epicurean Market
Rice Epicurean is the oldest family-owned supermarket chain in Houston, with roots reaching back into the community more than 70 years. In 1937, William H. Levy, grandfather of the current owners, founded Rice Food Markets. The company grew, but in order to compete with the larger chains, they set out to reinvent themselves with the goal of becoming the best grocery store in town. Toward that end, they opened the first Rice Epicurean Market in 1988.
Today, the family operates five locations in the Houston area, ranging in size from 25,000 to 42,000 square feet, while still maintaining the founder's original concepts of offering quality products and personal service. The company boasts a growing number of employees who have been with them for more than 20 years. Each store is merchandised to be in tune with its particular neighborhood, offering the finest meat and produce as well as a broad selection of prepared foods, and upscale floral and European bakery departments.
In 2002, Rice Epicurean became the first Houston grocer to offer online shopping at RiceDelivers.com. The store continues to be wholly owned by founding family members.
Gourmet Retailer's Retailer of the Year (multi-store chain)
Sprouts Farmers Markets
Fast-paced growth has lead Sprouts Farmers Market to open a dozen of stores so far this year. The natural food store, which has 54 locations in Arizona, California, Texas and Colorado, has a slogan — Healthy Living for Less—that resonates with shoppers from all demographics looking for natural and organic foods.
Thanks to the low, five-foot high shelving throughout, shoppers have an unobstructed view across the store. With a focus on affordable and healthy alternatives, Sprouts offers deli, meats, dairy, shelf-stable grocery, bakery, produce, and natural supplements and body care items. Each store averages about 25,000 feet.
Two of Sprouts' traffic-driving areas are its bulk and produce departments, featuring many items that are sourced from local farms when in season. In all areas of the stores, Sprouts' hybrid approach includes the best of organic and conventional items.
Gourmet Retailer's Independent Retailer of the Year
Ann Arbor, Mich.
The small university town of Ann Arbor, Mich., may seem like an odd place to find one of the country's most renowned specialty stores, but then, so, is Akron, Ohio (see West Point Market). Partners Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw met while working in the same restaurant, became friends and eventually opened Zingerman's in 1982 as a classic Jewish delicatessen, serving chicken soup with matzo balls, chopped liver, smoked fish, cured meats, cheese, pastry and what has become one of their signature items: a wonderful range of delicious sandwiches, all made with top-quality ingredients. Gradually, their selection grew to include estate olive oils, artisanal vinegars, the finest hams, cheese, salumi, pasta, and other delicacies from here and abroad.
Today, Zingerman's is a whole community of businesses, including the Zingerman's Deli, Bakehouse, Catering, Creamery, Coffee Company, Roadhouse, and ZingTrain, which provides training and consulting services in order to share the "Zingerman's experience." Weinzweig has authored a number of books, including "Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating" and "Zingerman's Guide to Giving Great Service." Zingerman's has become a benchmark in the industry for product selection, production, innovation, customer service and staff training.