When Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw founded Zingerman's Deli, they probably didn't expect to start a local food empire. In fact, they almost went in another direction entirely: as the success and reputation of the Deli grew, they were deluged with requests to franchise it. Unlike many companies in that situation (e.g. Borders), they decided that their concept couldn't be made portable without losing something essential, that it really couldn't be spread outside the area and still remain true to itself.

Instead, they turned their attention to starting complementary businesses locally -- an unusual business model, but one that has worked well for them, and has gained a lot of press attention. They've had a couple failures (e.g. a grocery store they tried to start in Kerrytown, which went through a couple of owners before Sparrow Meat and Produce bought it), but most of their businesses have been highly successful:

  • Zingerman's Deli -- where it all started
  • Zingerman's Mail Order -- an offshoot of the deli, it serves former Ann Arborites and other addicts all over the globe
  • Zingerman's Catering -- not cheap, but not your boring "wedding chicken" either
  • Zingerman's Coffee Company -- supplies coffee to some of the other Zingerman's businesses and mail order
  • ZingTrain -- trains people from other companies in Zingerman's principles of customer service (one benefit of working for Zingerman's is that you can take classes with ZingTrain for free; they're normally not cheap)
  • Zingerman's Bakehouse -- originally started to supply bread to the Deli, it's now a lot more than that
  • Zingerman's Creamery -- organic, locally produced butter, cheeses, and gelato
  • Zingerman's Roadhouse -- their most ambitious foray yet, a large restaurant serving regional American cuisine with artisan-production ingredients
  • Zingerman's Candy Manufactory -- high end candy bars