It isn’t unusual for a specialty food retailer to sell award-winning products, but what does it take to build a retail store worthy enough of earning its own awards? We asked sisters Evelyn Ignatow and Sylvia Levine, owners of Hyde Park Gourmet Food & Wine, how they’ve managed to rein in numerous accolades over the years, including their recent recognition as an honorable mention for the Outstanding Retailers of 2010 by The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT).
As you walk into the store, located just across the street from Graeter’s in Hyde Park Square, there is a nostalgic feeling that washes over you. In fact, it feels as if you’ve entered a caviste off the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, circa 1900. Oak barrels serve as tasting tables, the smell of yeast and cheese swirl in the air, and columns of wine create a maze through the tiny shop. Overhead, grand baskets of gourmet food, chocolate and wine tower from lofty ledges while the creaky wooden floors reveal their age with every step.
Aside from classical elegance and tasteful offerings, Hyde Park Gourmet’s points of distinction include excellent customer service, industry knowledge, community involvement, and a 15-year history of hard work and dedication — qualities that haven’t gone unnoticed.
"We strive to offer a unique selection of specialty foods, which include fresh and shelf-stable products and freshly-made gourmet carry-out sandwiches, salads, soups, dips and spreads," Ignatow says. "We take pride in what we offer and in the fact that our customers have been loyal to us despite new competition in the marketplace."
The independent, family-owned and operated business holds its own, even among the area’s mega-retailers. In recent years, Hyde Park Gourmet has a broader reach through its online presence at HydeParkGourmet.com, where customers can purchase a huge selection of beautifully made gourmet gift baskets.
"Our gourmet baskets have won awards at national competitions and have been published in Gift Basket Review. Senders and recipients of our food baskets include national celebrities and White House personnel," says Levine, a nationally acclaimed gift basket expert.
Of its many recognitions, the most recent recognition by NASFT stands above the rest. Members of NASFT nominate U.S. stores based on the qualities of a successful specialty food establishment. These qualities include everything from uniqueness to product knowledge and customer service, and each nominated business should exemplify all of these traits.
"Our accomplishments have enabled us to give back to our community through considerable donations of time and merchandise. We are very proud of this and look forward to continued success in the future," Ignatow says.
The store’s well-informed staff consistently makes it a point to be a consultative resource for customers. By providing expert knowledge and pleasant customer experiences, they’ve established a supportive and loyal customer base.
To learn more about this award-winning and nationally recognized local business visit 2707 Erie Ave. in Hyde Park, and become a fan on the Hyde Park Gourmet Facebook page.
Photo courtesy of Hyde Park Gourmet Food & Wine