"Fancy Food" Award, Why You Shop at DLM, and Other Ramblings...

Article written by Calvin Mayne, General Manager of Dorothy Lane Market.

Since you may not have heard about this yet, I've been asked by my co-workers to tell you about a "fancy" award that we won in July 2007. At the International Fancy Food Show in New York City, we were named one of only six Outstanding Retailers by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT). This is actually the second time we've won the award, 2001 being the first.

Getting the award got me to wondering about exactly what "fancy food" is . I suppose we should have some expertise on the subject, getting awards for it and all. Synonyms for fancy in one dictionary include "swanky", "posh", "ornamental", and "impressive". far I'm not liking this word. That is to say, we don't particularly aspire, or should I say, fancy ourselves, to be these things. But one of the definitions catches my attention: "of particular excellence".

Excellence is what we strive for, in the food we sell you and in the service we give you. Maybe even that sounds a bit overdone. Simply put, what makes us happy is serving you with good things to eat. Sure, we've got the everyday supermarket goods: milk, cereal, paper towels, and so on. And you get good deals on everyday needs with Club DLM 2.U. But what makes us tick? Moreover, why do you shop at DLM?

Occasionally, an industry visitor or competitor will comment that DLM is a "niche" store, or that what we do "is not for everyone". I'm not sure what that means. According to what I hear from you, DLM is as friendly, comfortable, and neighborly, as it is interesting, stimulating, and sophisticated. Expertise? Yes. Snobbery? No. Maybe that's why, at least weekly, I meet someone in the store who stops me and says, "Meet my aunt from New Jersey", or "Here's my brother, visiting from London!" "We had to show them DLM while they were in town!" If you're proud to bring guests here, and if life is made a wee bit better by having a place like DLM to buy your food, I'd say that's a good thing.

Back to the notion of "fancy" food...If you were to ask me what you like about the food we sell, I doubt you'd use the word "fancy". Could we agree on "good-tasting, often traditional, sometimes local, occasionally imported, thoughtfully selected, incredibly cravable, everyday, real food"? Way too long, I know, but it's an attempt to describe what you find at DLM. A few examples off the top of my head: our Bakery's Chausson puff pastry sandwiches, made entirely from scratch with high-quality butter from Vermont. I had these for lunch along with our store-made soup three times last week. A business meeting last Monday was punctuated by a comparative tasting of two different Prosciutti di Parma (salt-cured hams from Italy), one cured for 400 days and the other for 500 days. Each amazing in its own way. Tasting dark chocolate was the order of the day a couple weeks back, and every time I pass by the Wine department, I get an education about our newest wine from Australia or beer from Michigan. In five minutes, you can stroll around and taste, or buy, or talk about anything from cheese from Spain to chickens from Xenia. Crisp sweet apples are coming soon, along with colorful squash and pumpkins.

Even when it comes to everyday, otherwise mundane food, we try to make it "of particular excellence." To illustrate, a longtime friend and customer Diane B. stopped me in front of the Deli a little while back, nearly waxing poetic on how much she loved our tuna salad, having had a slather of it on our toasted Farmhouse Bread for breakfast. She made me crave it so, I bought two containers when I left the store that night. That simple tuna salad for a couple of bucks is as "fancy" as anything in the store.

Let us thank you for staying interested, for wanting good food, and for supporting us, be it for a short time, or for many years. Of course, Dorothy Lane Market wouldn't exist without customers such as you, and so the award given to us in New York is as much yours as it is ours. Back to the original questions as to what makes us tick, and why you shop with us, answers would differ. I would however, offer one solution that came to me today serendipitously. I was at the coffee bar sipping on some Yrgacheffe, and Scotty Achs, Grocery Manager at Washington Square, ran up to me with a quote he had seen and scribbled on a napkin. "This is us! This is us, I tell you!" Looking at that napkin, I think the famous Irish playwright was on to something.

"There is no love sincerer than the love of food." George Bernard Shaw.