Andy Hoffman dishes on his vision for Gourmet Again.

Andy Hoffman wants you to think of Gourmet Again when you have something to celebrate. But he wants you to think of his gourmet grocery store when something bad happens, too.

Hoffman believes that Gourmet Again can be the community’s best resource for celebrating simchahs — engagements, b’nai mitzvah, anniversaries — and for families who are sitting shiva for their loved ones.

“We share a lot of simchahs with our customers, along with the downsides,” said Hoffman, 35, who started working at Gourmet Again in 1996 when he was 14.

Hoffman said that Gourmet Again takes care of every meal-related detail for a family in mourning.

“We create a contact person for the house and an account for the family. We help them to order meals and sweet trays. We take out the trash,” Hoffman said. “It’s custom catering.

“This [catering direction] is where I see the business heading,” added Hoffman.

Hoffman left Gourmet Again to work in his family’s printing business but returned at the request of Howard Hackerman, a second-generation owner, who took over the business from his uncle, Stanley Pressman. It was Hackerman who moved the operation back to Old Court Road in 1994, after it had briefly relocated to the Festival at Woodholme.

The gourmet food business has evolved over the years even since he took over the business from Hackerman in 2013, Hoffman said. “Industry powerhouses” like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have changed the landscape.

“They really affect the small companies,” Hoffman said, “and now people can get food delivered to their door. We have had to alter our business to make them come out.”

Hoffman said that Gourmet Again strives to offer customers both great food and exceptional customer service. Ultimately, it’s the service that will keep customers coming back, he said.

“Getting to know the customers is important,” Hoffman said. “You can get that danish at four other places. You can get your mashed potatoes at some other place. We have very low employee turnover, and our employees know our customers.”

Hoffman said that good customer service begins with good hiring and training.

“We try to cross-train everyone,” Hoffman said. “Anyone who’s out in the store should be able to help any customer in any department.”

Modeling is important, too, Hoffman said. “You try to instill it in one person and they learn by example.” Hoffman used the example of a long-term employee who starts preparing regular customers’ orders as soon as she sees them walk through the door. New employees see her doing this, and they start doing it, too.

“It’s a family affair,” Hoffman said. His mother, Toby, works at the store, and Gourmet Again’s general manager, Jerry Schlichting, is the son of the store’s former co-owner, Barbara Collurafici.

“I try to give over-the-top customer service,” Hoffman said. “We know our customers’ names and their kids’ names. People love what we do here.”

Richard Gorelick is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.

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