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Outstanding Retailers of 2011

Date: 06/01/11 | Source: Specialty Food Magazine | Author: Eva Meszaros and Kristen Seymour
Categories: Specialty Food Association Awards; Retailer Awards | Tags: Cafe; Cheese; Local; Meat; Minnesota; Profile; Retailer; Seafood
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Outstanding Retailers of 2011

ZZest Market & Café

by Eva Meszaros

The name says it all: ZZest Market & Cafe is a robust shop by day and inventive restaurant by night. Standing out among its quiet, Midwest surroundings in Rochester, Minn., this energetic retailer has gotten its sea legs thanks to its founders’ restaurant and retail experience and innovation in an area that was lacking among specialty food retailers.


In 2009 this 2,700-square-foot retail and restaurant space opened overlooking the Zumbro River in southern Rochester. But long before that, founder LeeAnn Zubay and her husband Jerry were passionately involved in the food industry. LeeAnn honed her food skills as a chef consultant, researching menus, developing recipes and scouting out obscure ingredients, while Jerry managed and contributed to countless area restaurants.

LeeAnn’s work sourcing ingredients and products fueled her desire to open a specialty food market. “I always had a hard time finding great items,” she says. “I wanted to bring that stuff into Rochester.”


Year Opened: 2009

Type of Business: Specialty food store, deli and café

Outstanding Features: On-site restaurant that uses market’s products; local meats, eggs and produce; sponsor for annual local charitable events

Contact: LeeAnn Zubay

Points of Distinction

LeeAnn has a soft spot for small-scale, local producers when it comes to stocking the shelves at ZZest. “I want to bring the little guy—just like me—on the shelves of my store,” she explains. Taking her product hunt seriously, she travels the country for special finds that she says the Midwest is missing and orders from approximately 170 vendors, bringing in charcuterie from Iowa to Italy, chutneys from California and Minnesota and about 200 domestic and international cheeses.

ZZest’s café sits attached to the side of the market. It has no separate entrance, which has encouraged a more casual vibe despite its elegant nightly menu. The chefs pluck many of their ingredients from ZZest’s store shelves for offerings such as Grilled Moroccan Spiced Shrimp with Tangy and Peppery Cous Cous. Meats and eggs are sourced locally, and produce comes from nearby farmers markets when available. The restaurant sports a patio that opens as soon as the long Minnesota winter months die down, complete with an herb garden for truly local ingredients.

How ZZest Keeps Innovating

The Zubays are planning for ZZest to carry more ingredients on-site for the restaurant’s use, such as steaks from local farm Hill and Vale, so that dining at the café becomes akin to a lavish sampling station of the store’s goods. “We have amazing food,” LeeAnn professes. “Our menus are beautiful and comparable to nice restaurants that are located in bigger cities than we are.”

Across the lot, a Trader Joe’s is soon to open, but Zubay doesn’t see it as competition. “They have nice produce so you can run over and get that,” she notes, “but when you want to finish it off with an amazing olive oil, then you come and see me.”—E.M.

See all of the 2011 Award Winners by visiting the following link: 2011 Outstanding Retailer Awards

Eva Meszaros is associate editor of Specialty Food Magazine.
Kristen Seymour is a freelance writer for Paw Nation, That’s Fit,
BlogHer and
Pet Home Magazine.

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Outstanding Retailers of 2011

The name says it all: ZZest Market & Cafe is a robust shop by day and inventive restaurant by night.

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