Like corned beef nestled between two toasted pieces of rye bread, the newest addition to the Zingerman’s Deli hopes to add more meat to the eatery in the form of additional seating, a newer, larger kitchen and a more modern facility.
After almost two years of construction, which was approved by the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission in 2011, the new additions to the eatery will be open to Zingerman’s customers and staff this week.
In a tour of the new expansion, Lori Saginaw, Zing Look and Feel consultant and wife of Zingerman’s co-founder Paul Saginaw, said the new expansion — which is a little more than 10,000 square feet in additional space — will give the Zingerman’s eatery the environment it has always needed to operate efficiently.
“We’ve outgrown everything. And that was why this was so necessary,” Saginaw said. “It isn’t just because we didn’t have enough places to seat people, but it was because that little, tiny kitchen was the only kitchen. And everything that the kitchen needed had to be put outside on the campus in remote areas, so people who are cooking had to go outside the building to get more potatoes.”
Saginaw said the long-needed expansion could not happen in past years because the company did not own more space to expand. The chance to expand came after a house next to the eatery was severely damaged in a 2006 fire, an incident in which a Zingerman’s sandwich line manager saved the life of an elderly woman living in the Kingsley Street home.
Zingerman’s bought the property, which serves as the ground for the new, two-story rectangular expansion. Previously, the eatery rented out available property in the area to fill the urgent need for space. Saginaw said having the chance to design a building for Zingerman’s was a rewarding experience.
“We’ve never been able to occupy a building that was designed with intention,” Saginaw said. “It was always whatever we could do in the moment to create the space, and that’s why this building matters so much to us, because we actually could think about the best possible way to serve our guests, serve our staff and grow from the foundation that we landed in in the beginning.”
The new building offers many amenities to improve the work of employees. A receiving area is a first for Zingerman’s, which previously conducted deliveries on the streets. New prep areas in the basement will assist Zingerman’s Catering and the deli. In-house refrigerators will eliminate the need for employees to run outside to fetch food products. The new area will also connect to the current deli via an atrium that will be built in upcoming months.
“The whole basement will be interconnected,” Saginaw said. “It will be like a magical underground city.”
Customers will utilize the new building on the first and second floors. Punchy colors and graphics featuring Zingerman’s desserts and delicacies paint the walls, keeping with the Zingerman’s brand aesthetic. New seating areas, including a south porch with retractable garage doors and a second floor patio, will almost double the amount of seating in the eatery.
The design of the expansion differs slightly from the Zingerman’s Next Door Coffee House, the current site of all Zingerman’s customer seating. Additions in the expansion include various re-used items, including a wooden bench made from a spruce tree demolished on the property. Saginaw said sustainability was a key factor in the expansion; the eatery hopes to receive Leadership in Energy and Environment Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its efforts.
For customers visiting the deli, Saginaw explained the experience will remain the same, with patrons entering through the deli and walking through the retail section of the store before approaching a glass case and ordering station in the new atrium.
Zingerman’s marketing manager Pete Sickman-Garner said the retail space in the current deli area will expand after operations are moved to the new kitchen and the current kitchen is torn down.
“We can convert all that square footage into retail space, and it won’t nearly be as crowded for shopping,” Sickman-Garner said.
The final new area for customers is the cash register area, which sits inside an electric blue house. Sickman-Garner explained that the house was moved in 1902 from the corner of Detroit and Kingsley streets when a grocery store was built in its place. That grocery store became Zingerman’s in 1982, when Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig founded the deli.
Original plans for the expansion did not include the building, but the Ann Arbor Historic District Commission required the historic building remain standing. Sickman-Garner explained the house was moved again to make room for the new building, and it was gutted and renovated completely to create the new check-out area.
“Looking at it now, I think it kind of gives the whole thing a funky character,” Sickman-Garner said.
Along with the new additions, technological updates can be found throughout the eatery, including iPads for taking orders and a new station for picking up and purchasing call-in orders. For Saginaw, this new change seems daunting, but necessary.
“It’s hard when you’ve done everything by hand for 30 years to suddenly switch over to electronic is very hard,” she said. “There are huge efficiencies to it, and we’ve already cut the sandwich making time in half.”
Even with iPads, Zingerman’s classic style still remains, with stands crafted from re-used pickle buckets to hold the devices.
With the new building, Saginaw said about 60 new jobs will be created within the eatery.
Zingerman’s Co-founder Paul Saginaw said he hopes the new expansion will meld with the rest of the eatery.
“We wanted to carry the look and feel of the last 30 years over into the new building, but we certainly wanted to have better public restrooms and better seating and improve production,” Saginaw said, referring to the new, modern restrooms in the expansion.
Art & Design freshman Stuart Rosemurgy, a Zingerman’s employee, said the large expansion seemed overwhelming initially.
“I didn’t like it at first, but after learning the ropes, I started to really like it,” Rosemurgy said, adding that he thinks the expansion matches the aesthetic of the other buildings in the eatery.
LSA freshman Kendall Gordon, who was visiting the deli with friends, said she was excited that the additional seating would reduce time when trying to find a table.
Along with the deli, Zingerman’s owns eight other businesses in Ann Arbor that are independently managed, Sickman-Garner said. He added the renovation of the deli is the largest renovation project for the company, which cost about $6.7 million.
With the opening of the expansion, Saginaw said with the deli will face new challenges in shifting over to a different system.
“This is the biggest expansion, renovation that any of the businesses have ever done. And the scariest,” Saginaw said. “Because we like to do our best, and we like to do everything right and we know we’ll make mistakes, but we want to make as few as possible. And so, this is a big threshold for us to cross.”