Tuesday marks a milestone for deli-lovers all throughout the city of Ann Arbor: 40 years of Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Zingerman’s Community of Businesses — which has expanded to include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Zingerman’s Coffee Co. and Zingerman’s Creamery, among others — is commemorating the 40 year anniversary of its flagship with a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, Ann Arbor-based author Micheline Maynard released her new book, “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” on Feb. 22. The book explores Zingerman’s 40-year history and the business’ impact on Ann Arbor and beyond.
Since opening Zingerman’s Delicatessen in 1982, co-founders Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw have expanded, adding 14 businesses across Southeast Michigan. Both recent University of Michigan graduates at the time, the pair thought Ann Arbor was lacking a quintessential taste of traditional Jewish deli.
“The two found that they shared this dream of starting their own deli because they’re both Jewish and they both grew up with the big deli sandwich tradition,” author Micheline Maynard said in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “They realized in 1982 that Ann Arbor didn’t have a place like that.”
Weinzweig, who is still the co-owner of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, told The Daily that Zingerman’s philosophy has always focused on creating mutually positive experiences for employees and customers alike. Prioritizing kindness and care, Weinzweig said, is what has fueled the company’s success in Ann Arbor for the last 40 years.
“The standard definition of business success is how much money you made, or if you went public, or how many units you opened,” Weinzweig said. “It just makes more sense to me to look at it in the context of, are people better for having worked in our organization? Are our customers’ lives better for having our food or shopping with us? It’s less easily measured than a bank account, but that kind of stuff really is what’s most important to us.”
Zingerman’s launched a fundraiser with a goal of $40,000 dollars for Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley (H4H), which works to build and renovate homes for low-income families in Washtenaw County, to help give back to the “amaZING” community. According to their fundraising website, Zingerman’s has committed to matching all donations they receive up to the $40,000 goal. As of Monday, Zingerman’s has raised over $5,700, and the fundraiser will continue throughout the month of March.
According to Leah Tessman, development coordinator for corporate and faith relations at H4H, $80,000 — the total Zingerman’s would donate if they raise $40,000 — would likely be enough for H4H to fully renovate a house for a family in Washtenaw County.
“Additionally, we’ve had in kind donations from the Bake House, Roadhouse, pretty much all of them have at some point, donated in kind goods to our events to help our fundraising activities,” Tessman said. “They’ve also provided many, many I don’t even I’ve lost track count of how many volunteers they’ve also provided, whether it be in our work sites, at our restore.”
Many businesses prioritize profitability, Maynard said, but Zingerman’s is unique because it always puts “service first.”
“A lot of businesses set out first to make a profit, and that’s not where (Zingerman’s) is,” Maynard said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re buying one bagel; the people that wait on you basically treat you like you’re the only customer that ever came in there.”
Treating each customer with kindness is a cornerstone of how Zingerman’s is run, Maynard wrote in her book. Through detailed and supportive employee training, founders and new hires alike have said that Zingerman’s is much more than a workplace, Maynard told The Daily, it’s a community.
“At Zingerman’s, they give employees a whole list of things that they want you to learn,” Maynard said. “And they tell you, ‘This is how we will teach you, and if you don’t feel you’re getting enough instruction, you can come back to us and say I don’t understand this part or I don’t feel confident with this.’ And then they’ll adjust so that you do have the confidence to do (the job).”
For Maynard, it’s clear that this attention to detail has paid off. According to her book by her, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses is now worth around $70 million, and she said it has become renowned within Ann Arbor’s restaurant scene for a reason.
“It isn’t just that little deli on Detroit Street anymore,” Maynard said. “It kind of feels like almost in every part of Ann Arbor you’ll see Zingerman’s. It really is a pretty visible part of Ann Arbor now, in a way that it wasn’t right at the beginning.”
Maynard said Weinzweig and Sagniaw’s success symbolizes what two college graduates with a shared dream can accomplish.
“I think for me, what (their story) says is that you can meet people at U of M, and come up with an idea, and it doesn’t take very long for it to come to reality,” Maynard said.
Even 40 years later, Zingerman’s is still paying homage to its Wolverine roots by providing UM students with unique opportunities for hands-on collaboration. Business and Engineering sophomore Priyanka Madhavan served as a project manager for the Zingerman’s Service Network (the company’s centralized hub) through MEG Consulting, a student-run consulting group on campus.
From having her first Zingerman’s sandwich at the deli during her UM campus tour before her freshman year to working directly with Zingerman’s financial director, Madhavan said Zingerman’s has always been an important part of her college experience.
“It was just really cool to see the management from both the consulting side and the consumer side, to see how they really echo that vision of being caring and making sure that their employees and customers are treated well,” Madhavan said. “That’s very rare, I think, in big, large-scale businesses like that, but Zingerman’s has really done a good job of keeping that intact throughout their existence.”
Daily Staff Reporter Matthew Shanbom contributed to reporting.
Daily Staff Reporter Emily Blumberg can be reached at email@example.com.