Dean & DeLuca is an institution - with the best food the world has to offer, says Simon Mowbray

Our experts say...

“Overall store environment presentation and displays have a unique character and personality that convey food quality and expertise”

Dean & DeLuca has been on the glittering Big Apple food map since 1977, when it became the flagship outlet for New York entrepreneurs Joel Dean and Giorgio DeLuca. More than 30 years on, it is a burgeoning empire that boasts a growing number of stores throughout the US and even three in Japan.
The company’s story is founded in a mixture of the American dream and a desire to provide consumers with the best that the world has to offer in food and drink. Arguably a modern equivalent of London’s pioneering 300-year-old Fortnum & Mason, Messrs Dean and DeLuca’s mission statement was clear from the outset: “To lead the marketplace in exploration, discovery and celebration of food from around the world.”
According to DeLuca’s food importer father, that dream was “nuts”, but DeLuca Junior more than proved him wrong as the first store quickly became a ‘must visit’ for New York’s growing army of foodies.
The area south of Manhattan’s Houston Street was still a bleak warren of warehouses and small manufacturing companies when fellow founder Jack Ceglic, an artist, designed the first store to evoke a turn-of-the-century food department with high ceilings.
Meanwhile, Dean and DeLuca were off scouring the planet for artisan foods - and the result was a unique offer of produce and foodstuffs, many of which had never been sold in the US before. “We were the first to sell balsamic vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms,” recalls DeLuca. “In those early days, I went out of my way to establish extra virgin olive oil. Everyone who came in to the store got a taste.”
Eventually, that first 2,600 sq ft store simply got too small for the expanding operation, so a 10,000 sq ft former Army & Navy outlet on the corner of Prince and Broadway was acquired in 1988 to take the outlet on to the next stage of its development.
Today, the company owns 14 retail stores and cafés throughout the US, a consumer and corporate gift catalogue and an internet delivery site. The company also markets its own label products to other retailers and wholesalers throughout the world.
Still typical of its offer is that first New York outlet, which, according to the company, aims to create “a feast for the senses in an environment where expert customer service and culinary excellence reign”. Each department is jammed full of colourful offerings. Managers are experts in their field and each works directly with artisan producers, farmers and fishermen.
As soon as you walk into the Broadway store, your senses are awakened. The colours and layout of the fruit and veg would be quite at home on an artist’s canvas and there’s a real (up)marketplace feel to the store. The counters display a wonderful array of goods - the fresh fish is out of this world, the breads on offer are innumerable and the luxury chocolate counter, expansive cheese display and delicatessen leave the customer drooling at the mouth - even if the premium price tags can be a little hard to swallow.
Not content to just spread its wings throughout the US, Dean & DeLuca opened its first Japanese outlet in Marunouchi in June 2003 in a joint venture with Itochu International, quickly following with a second in Shibuya, Tokyo. The third - in Shinagawa - opened in March last year.