Specialty Food Magazine

MAY-JUN 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 71 of 103

vnsourmtrk Eli's Manhattan F ounded by Eli Zabar, this 20,000-square-foot food emporium has been a New York City institution since it opened on Manhattan's Upper East Side in 1998. Inspired by the food halls of Europe, the two-floor store specializes in gourmet prepared foods, fresh fish, aged meat and cheeses, freshly baked baguettes and pastries, along with a kosher bakery, an adjacent wine store, gelato stand and restaurant. History…The youngest son of Louis Zabar, who opened New York City's historic epicurean emporium Zabar's in 1934, Eli opened his first food business in the 1970s with restaurant E.A.T. and later an E.A.T. gift boutique. Nearly two decades later, in 1993, he opened Eli's Vinegar Factory, which features a market, café, com- mercial bakery and rooftop garden. Zabar later found an opportu- nity 10 blocks south of his Vinegar Factory to create a specialty food market. In 1998 he opened Eli's Manhattan, a stylish store with an emphasis on hard-to-find specialty products. Points of Distinction…Upon entering the store, shoppers are greeted with classical music and the fragrance of fresh-baked bread from the on-site bakery. For those with too little time to browse the aisles, a vibrant personal-shopping program allows cus- tomers to call in their grocery lists over the phone, and Eli's staff handpicks the items. "We don't just grab any bananas for a cus- tomer," says Adam Rhein, a buyer for Eli's. "I shop like I'm shopping for myself." Eli's Manhattan goes above and beyond with quality control, too, ensuring every product is in pristine condition before moving it to the shelves or displays. "We sort our blueberries by hand before offering them to customers. Every blueberry will be picture perfect," Rhein explains. "We buy caviar in original tins and the first thing we do is pop the tin open and taste the caviar." Offering a unique selection is the goal when selecting products to sell. "We try to source things you can't find anyplace else, so we import many items from France, Italy and Spain," Rhein notes. "But we also source cheeses, dairy, meat and produce locally." Eli's even offers a small selection of seasonal produce, such as heirloom toma- toes, arugula, micro-greens and figs, which are grown on the Vinegar Factory's rooftop garden. The market is equally known for its prepared foods. "Much of what we sell, we make," says Rhein of the acclaimed prepared items, which include salads, one-meal dishes such as mac & cheese, wraps and soup. "We have a 40-foot wall of soups that are made in the nearby Vinegar Factory's kitchen using the same high-quality ingre- dients that we sell in our store." And when looking for new products, Rhein says he always asks for samples that he personally tries. "If it's on our shelves and we're selling it, we have tried it," he says. "Nothing is bought blindly. It is all handpicked and tailored." Owner Eli Zabar, 69, himself is in the store every day tasting and testing. How It Keeps Innovating…Expansion is a key part of growth for Eli's. A few summers ago Eli's took over Amagansett Farmers Market on New York's Long Island. Most recently Eli's acquired a stall at the Grand Central Station Food Hall, where the team sells breads, pastries, cakes and pies. Later this year, the busi- ness will take over two more stalls, which will feature produce, nuts, dried fruits and candies. "We are constantly fine-tuning the things we do best: quality assurance and customer service," says Rhein. "It's a tough market and if we want to be in the game, we need to continue to go above and beyond."—D.M. Year Opened: 1998 Type of Business: Specialty food store with adjacent restaurant/café and wine store Outstanding Features: Butcher, fish market, house-made breads, house-roasted coffee beans and nuts, imported cheeses and prepared foods Contact: Adam Rhein elizabar.com MAY/JUNE 2012 65

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