DLM Difference: Authentic Coffee

We don’t just sell coffee at the DLM Coffee Bar. I mean, we do sell coffee, but there’s more at play with each pour. And this past January, myself and the three DLM Coffee Bar managers, Holli Kiser, Chris Hatfield, and Amy Bodish, traveled to the mountainous terrain of the Tarrazú region in central Costa Rica. It’s here that Hacienda La Minita is nestled. Along with some friends from Dayton’s Boston Stoker Coffee Company, including owner Henry Dean, we got to take our understanding of coffee to a new level. We not only soaked in knowledge during our five day stay, but we experienced it: we picked, we sorted, we smelled, we tasted, and we came back with a deeper understanding and appreciation for each sip, each bean, and the fine people who make it possible. —Scott Fox, VP of Bakery & Coffee Bar

“It’s one thing to sit in a room learning about coffee,” says Chris, DLM Springboro Coffee Bar manager, recalling his time in barista school. “But, it’s another seeing it in person.” The trek to where the coffee cherries grow at Hacienda La Minita is rugged terrain and the work is hard. On the first day the DLM team arrived, they strapped the picking baskets to their waists and got started alongside the pickers. They learned what to look for (red and yellow cherries) and that if you pick them too soon or too late, they won’t meet the La Minita grade. “They only pick what is ripe, so that means that they are picking four to five times from the same tree—it’s like a typewriter,” says Scott.

After the allotted picking time was up, everyone took their haul and circled around a large truck where two men stood in the bed. One would be handed a picking basket full of coffee cherries. He’d weigh the contents, shout a number, and the next man would throw money into the emptied basket before handing it back to its picker. As a Fair Trade coffee, the workers are compensated fairly, are permitted to live on the plantation, and have access to a clinic and dentist for free.

Same is true for migrant workers who come seasonally to work. After all that was harvested that day was gathered and paid out, time was ticking. It’s important for the processing of the coffee cherries to happen 24 hours from being picked before
quality diminishes. First, the haul must make its way to recibidores, or receiving stations, before continuing through the mountains to the mill. To get there, Chris, Scott, Holli, Amy, and friends rode in the back of the truck among the cherries,
“hanging on for dear life,” Scott jokes.

At the receiving station, they are weighed again—making sure what was paid out matches what is coming in. A much larger truck then picks up everything that needs to make it the mill where it is all weighed again. From there, a tedious multi-step process begins resulting in only about 20-22% of what was picked meeting the La Minita grade. The rest will be sold under a different banner.

There are layers to the coffee cherry that encase the bean within: the skin, fruit, a sticky layer called mucilage, and a thin parchment-like covering on the bean. At the mill, the beans undergo cleaning, depulping, sorting, fermentation, washing, and drying. Nothing is wasted along the way as the removed parchment feeds a fire that aids in the drying process. The travelers from DLM are witness to this all.

At the sorting stage, DLM Oakwood Coffee Bar manager Amy recalls a phrase that “every bean has a home,” even the ones that do not make the cut for La Minita. About 50-60 inspectors await, knowing just what to look for. “They are pulling out anything that is damaged, not the right color,” says Holli, DLM Washington Square Coffee Bar manager. “The biggest and most dense beans are what becomes La Minita.”

This is just one of the coffee varieties roasted locally at Boston Stoker, which we feature at the DLM Coffee Bar. The same care in finding a high quality and ethical source is taken with other varieties as well that make their way to Boston Stoker and then to DLM. “At the end of the day, La Minita is a top notch company, from their ethics and the way they do things to the quality of their coffee,” Scott says, “And Henry Dean (Boston Stoker) is incredibly well respected in the industry and knowledgeable.”

DLM Difference: FRESH Seafood Starts with Trust

DLM realized many years ago that we needed to source the very best products for our customers. At the time, most seafood sold was frozen or whatever distributors in Ohio wanted to sell you. The first step was to teach our seafood specialists all about fresh seafood. What to look for, how to handle it, how to hold and display it, and most important, develop that passion about what they sell. This passion was contagious and it did not take long to develop the trust with our customers that our seafood was truly different. When it comes to the secret behind our Seafood department, there are three legs to the stool: The freshest fish possible, the most knowledgeable fishmongers in town, and the customers who trust us to do the right thing and bring high quality seafood to Dayton, Ohio. This is the DLM Difference. —Jack Gridley, DLM VP of Meat & Seafood

TRUST THY FISHMONGER
When I walk in the door for work, my mindset instantly goes to a portion of the DLM Mission Statement that says “To make our customers happy by providing Honestly Better® food & service—every time.” Sure that involves things like smiling and knowing my customers on a first name basis, but it really involves honesty and integrity, meaning that I always tell the truth. If someone asks me “what came in today,” I tell them. Prior to coming to work at DLM 17 years ago, I was on the vendor side for a combined 27 years in this industry. I know that trust is so important, and it makes me proud to be able to deliver answers because we get the best, allowing us to serve the best. —Mike Kirkland, DLM Washington Square Fishmonger

 

WE GO STRAIGHT TO THE BEST FOR THE BEST
A huge DLM Difference is our fantastic suppliers. We go right to the source, which gets the product to our stores quicker than most, meaning that there is less time spent out of water. Plus, they are fabulous people who have become part of our DLM family. We have gone through many ups and downs of life together and they always look out for the very best our industry has to offer. These are some of the people who we talk to almost daily, and they bring fantastic seafood to our stores. There is Karl in Alaska, LaDawn from the Columbia River Valley, Frank in Boston, John up in Northern Ohio near Lake Erie, the Ready Brothers in Maine, as well as our industry friends Becky and Emily who have a vast network. My family has even spent some time with Karl’s family in Alaska touring their facility! The relationships with these small family businesses are real—we are not just an invoice number. This is a key part of our success. —Kim Swing, DLM Washington Square Seafood Manager

SCOUTING FOR THE UNIQUE
When I call my contacts to place orders, I’m always asking questions like “hey, what’s new,” “what’s popular in the industry,” and of course, “how is the fishing going?” Whether it be sourcing oyster varieties to feature that week or bringing in any number of products, these types of questions help me in my quest to pick unique items. Or, sometimes these conversations unlock preparation and serving ideas that I can tell customers about or filleting techniques. I really think that curiosity that all of us managers have is something that sets us apart. It also leads us toward new finds, and in the case of our revamped Poke bars, something truly unique.   —Jon Lemaster, DLM Springboro Seafood Manager

FRESH NEVER FROZEN
You may be asking yourself, “How is fresh (never frozen) seafood possible in midwestern Ohio?” We receive fresh shipments of seafood seven days a week from the Boston area, Washington state, and even as far as Alaska just to name a few areas, and this is thanks to our tight-knit industry relationships. We also choose air-freight to minimize that time spent out of water. In fact, long-time DLM associate Wayne Chrisman even picks up fresh fish deliveries from the Dayton airport for us. We also strive to reflect fish that is in season so we are always focusing on what is fresh now. Speaking of fresh, don’t miss our semi-annual fresh Whole Salmon Sidewalk sale this summer where we can cut the fish to your liking! —Nick Budding, DLM Oakwood Seafood Manager

FARM RAISED THE RIGHT WAY
Growing populations and less wild stock in the oceans collide with over fishing, warming of the ocean, acidification of the water, and an overall growing love of eating seafood. It’ll continue, and farm-raising seafood is part of the answer, but only if we do it to the best of our planet’s interest. We made a stand many years ago by only sourcing farm-raised seafood done the right way, with those principles practiced by our organic and “all natural” land-based farmers and ranchers taken into consideration. We look for low stocking densities, no antibiotics or growth promotants, and sustainability and responsibility of the resources used. There are so many certifications out there for farm-raised seafood, but the most important thing is to “trust thy knowledgeable DLM fishmonger.” We only deal with responsibly raised farmed seafood. —Jack Gridley, DLM VP of Meat & Seafood

The DLM Difference

Frequently, visitors from out of town tell me they miss us. Others say it’s a major reason why they love living here. I ask why. People tell me “we trust you. Others gush “the food is so good!” The best one is “the people are wonderful.”

What is the DLM Difference? We strive to make a difference, but different from what? The word “difference” begs a comparison. Are we talking adversarilly about DLM vs other markets? No, actually. It’s a noble task to feed others, and the biz is mostly populated by good people.

The DLM Difference isn’t about us or them. It is about you! It’s the difference we want to make in your life. We want to give you a special experience where you meet nice people and find good food … really good food. Shopping DLM is a source of joy, not drudgery. Simply put, we aspire to make your life better. Our company’s mission begins, “To make our customers happy.”

Even in the simplest ways, we want to make a difference, whether you’re coming in for a quick cup of coffee, getting a healthy salad, buying a loaf of bread, or filling a cart to feed your family. Maybe it’s just to pick up a treat, say a brownie.

A DEEPER DIVE

Take, for example, that cup of coffee. Maybe it was from Hacienda La Minita in Costa Rica. You savor its aroma and flavor. Why is it so good? Ask one of our Coffee Bar Managers, Amy, Holli, or Chris, as they just went to Costa Rica in January, not just visiting the plantation, but even picking the beans!

Everybody admires our salad bar thanks to Bertha at Oakwood, Loretta at Washington Square, and Connie at Springboro. They come in early and begin selecting, cleaning, chopping, and producing multi-colored edible works of art, composed of organic lettuces, nutrient-packed vegetables, exotic microgreens, and eye-popping garnishments.

We are willing to do the hard work to make a difference. Consider our DLM Artisan Bread, like our Sourdough … oh my, it’s so good! But it takes a lot of work and expertise to make it so. We have a talented team of artisans who mix from the best flours, hand-shape, and bake on the hot hearth of our juggernaut European bread oven. Great bread is also the foundation (crust) of great pizza. We studied pizza for years before creating our Naples-Style Pizza. This involved installing the specialized hearth ovens, creating the right dough, and stretching our own fresh mozzarella.

And that brownie? Yes, it has to be a Killer Brownie®, of course! Our famous triple-layer brownie is so popular that this very month we are opening a brand new facility. We feature our Killer Brownie® not just in our stores, but now distribute it throughout the country.

FOOD LOVERS UNITE

Not surprisingly, we also do business with people who think as we do and who have passion: people whose mission in life is to cultivate the sweetest pineapple, grow the healthiest chicken, or churn-out the most indulgent butter. There are many more ways you experience the DLM Difference. One other quick example is our entire Seafood department. Some people come for our seafood alone. Want to chat about fishing families in Alaska? Species of salmon? Fat content? Recipes? Cooking methods? Let’s do it!

We are a place for people who love food. And that’s the engine that drives the DLM Difference. Join us this year as we explore some of our favorite points of difference each month and highlight these great products. We love what we do. We love serving you. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make a difference.

DLM Difference No. 1: FRESH SEAFOOD

DLM Difference No. 2: AUTHENTIC COFFEE

DLM Difference No. 3: VERA JANE’S SHORTCAKES

DLM Difference No. 4: USDA Prime DLM Ribeye Steak

DLM Difference No. 5: Prima® Peaches

DLM Difference No. 6: Brentlinger’s Farm Market Sweet Corn

Check back in the months to come for more in-depth highlights select DLM Differences.