Six Specialty Retailers Selected for Top Industry Award
The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT)
has announced the Outstanding Specialty Food Retailers of 2011. They
are: Central Market, Austin, Texas; Fromagination, Madison, Wis.;
Olives Gourmet Grocer, Long Beach, Calif.; The Cheese Iron, Portland,
Maine; The Fresh Market, Greensboro, N.C.; and ZZest Market & Café,
These outstanding retailers range from a local cheese shop founded
by a career-changer, to a specialty supermarket that has expanded to
more than 100 locations without sacrificing its commitment to quality
and customer service. The winners were selected by a panel of specialty
food experts convened by the NASFT who evaluated nominees from
across the United States.
“Each honoree exemplifies the hallmarks of specialty food retailing in
a unique way,” said Ann Daw, president of the NASFT. “They all bring
a passion for food, the customer, and the community to their work
Since opening in 1994, this Texas merchant has expanded to eight
stores offering more than 50,000 items, including produce, specialty
foods, bakery and deli. The company prides itself on providing customers with unique items in unexpected ways, such as allowing samples
of anything in the store and offering year-round cooking classes.
Founded by a former footwear buyer whose international travels exposed
him to the great food markets of Europe, Fromagination presents a
carefully edited selection of 400 items. The cheeses include dozens from
local food artisans. The store, on Capitol Square in Madison, Wis., is
across from one of the nation’s largest farmers’ markets.
Olives Gourmet Grocer
Two veterans of Whole Foods Market started their own specialty store
in 2004 to fill a niche in Long Beach, Calif., with high-quality foods from
lesser-known producers. Their specialty food savvy has helped them
expand to a second, larger location, and soon a third. Customer loyalty
is a key to success, but Olives also is a popular tourist draw.
The Cheese Iron
This European-style specialty shop, housed in an antique farmhouse in
Portland, Maine, offers more than 200 domestic and international cheeses. Opened in 2006, the store sells cheese-making supplies and classes,
an olive bar, wine, pâté and freshly baked bread. There’s also an on-site
The Fresh Market
This retailer blends the variety and vastness of a large chain with the
expertise and quality of a smaller-scale specialty food store. The key is
continual innovation, close ties to food producers and a commitment to
community involvement. The family-owned business has 100 locations
in 21 states. Features include 200 cheeses, 30 varieties of fresh-baked
breads and 400 produce items.
ZZest Market & Café
Founded in 2009 by two food professionals, this Rochester, Minn.-based
specialty retailer is a market by day and restaurant by night. ZZest offers
a welcome addition to an area that was lacking in options for food lovers.
The shelves are stocked with products from small-scale, local producers
and vendors from other states with items like charcuterie from Iowa and
chutneys from California. The café fare features ingredients from ZZest
The awards will be presented July 11, 2011, at the Summer Fancy Food
Show in Washington, D.C., at a red-carpet ceremony hosted by celebrity
chef Cat Cora. Winners are featured in the June issue of the NASFT’s
Specialty Food Magazine and at specialtyfood.com/retailerawards.
Honorable mentions went to: Carlino’s Market, West Chester, Pa.; City
Olive, Chicago; Farm Fresh to You, San Francisco; Gerrards Market,
Redlands, Calif.; Mollie Stone’s Markets, San Rafael, Calif.; Papa Joe’s
Gourmet Market & Catering, Rochester, Minn.; Parkview Gourmet,
Libertyville, Ill.; Peppers of Key West, Key West, Fla.; Savor the Flavor,
Sierra Madre, Calif.; Southport Grocery & Café, Chicago; Star Provisions,
Atlanta; The Andersons, Maumee, Ohio; The Cheese Shop of Virginia,
Williamsburg, Va.; Urban Harvest, Arlington Heights, Ill.; Vicente Foods,
Los Angeles; and Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Ann Arbor, Mich.