Published on: September 19, 2019
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Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
I've been doing this a long time … more than 30 years. But apparently, I'm a slow learner.
I came to that realization this summer, when, while living and teaching in Portland, Oregon, Mrs. Content Guy and I did a lot more food shopping and cooking that we have in the past, largely because the building where we rent an apartment during the summer had remodeled the common patio and installed some terrific grills. So, we loved the idea of sitting outside, listening to the sounds of the city, sip some good wine, maybe read a book, and cook up some steaks, burgers or seafood when we felt like it.
The store that I found myself patronizing for these essentials - and yes, I consider good wine to be an essential, was Zupan's, a three store independent that is highly invested in the celebration of great food.
And what I learned this summer, in a way that simply hadn't occurred to me before, is the degree to which a really great food store can change your life, can make your life better in tangible and intangible ways. Now, maybe one of the reasons that it hit me this year was that it was just us … no kids, no dogs, and somehow things just seemed more relaxed. (It probably helped that I took a little extra time off this summer.) We were open to having our lives changed. (And I remembered it the other day when I was back in Portland on business, which made me want to share it with you.)
I also think it helps that Zupan's seems to want to change its customers' lives … and I think that this is precisely the right attitude that food retailers should bring to the competitive wars.
An example: We would eat one of Zupan's signature boneless rib eye steaks, seasoned with a little Jacobsen's salt and private label olive oil, cooked on the grill using precise directions provided by one of Zupan's terrific meat guys. It would be accompanied by this amazing spinach and feta cold pasta salad (that I now have to figure out how to make), and some amazing wines. There were a lot of other items that Mrs. Content Guy fell in love with - maybe the most impactful was this hand-rolled butter that she felt was the best butter she'd ever had in her life.
Now that we're back home, and the closest Zupan's is a 2,937-mile / 43-hour drive from our garage (trust me, we've checked), the phrase I tend to hear a lot from Mrs. Content Guy is this: "It's good, but it isn't Zupan's."
Now, there are other stores that celebrate food like Zupan's does. Dorothy Lane Market, for example, or Westborn Market. (Dayton and Detroit are a lot closer than Portland. Hmmm…?) But lest you think that the celebration of food is only the province of these admittedly upscale stores, I'd like to suggest that this isn't true - a great meatloaf or burger is as worthy of celebration as a rib eye steak, and there are a ton of under $10 wines that
are eminently affordable and can make meals immeasurably better. Deliciousness, as someone really smart once said, becomes the ultimate differentiator.
In so many ways, this is what food stores have to do if they want to compete in an environment where there are a) tons of options, and b) a lot of people are doing a lot of shopping online.
Walk into Zupan's and there is lots of theater, lots of energy, lots of highly engaged and committed employees, and plenty of products that are almost impossible to find anyplace else. This last part is critical, because success is found in the places where you are different, not where you are the same.
Zupan's becomes not just a store you want to go to, but a store you have to go to, because it is so off-the-charts great.
Anyway, that is what is on m y mind this morning, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: