Andy Hoffman, owner of the now-defunct Gourmet Again in Pikesville, said he is heartbroken over the May 28 closing of the independent food specialty store.
But in an exclusive interview with Jmore, Hoffman said he has been overwhelmed by the community’s response and outpouring of love and support.
“I’ve gotten a pretty amazing response, via social media,” said Hoffman, 36, who worked at Gourmet Again since 1996, became general manager in 2007 and bought the store in 2013. “Out of everything that went on yesterday [on the store’s final day open], there were only a few negative comments. All things considered, the day was smooth.”
A Pikesville native and resident, Hoffman said he will spend the next few weeks cleaning out the store at 3713 Old Court Road, which was a neighborhood fixture among generations of area gourmands and foodies.
He attributed the demise of Gourmet Again to the economic climate in the food industry today.
“The food business is very difficult, cutthroat and competitive,” Hoffman said. “The nature of the business is changing. People can now go to Walgreens, CVS and 7-Eleven to purchase many of the items I carried.
“I couldn’t compete with the big guys. I just didn’t have that kind of purchasing power.”
Known for its deli counter, produce, prepared foods, salad bar and liquor section, Gourmet Again was a one-stop shop for patrons. The store also catered for such life-cycle events as engagements, baby-namings and brises, b’nai mitzvah, anniversaries and shiva houses.
“The community was behind us for so long,” Hoffman said. “At first, customers were shopping [at Gourmet Again] three or four times a week, and using our catering for holidays and simchas [joyous occasions]. But slowly, people started shopping for just holidays or just simchas, and that hurts a small business.”
Hoffman said the past year has been “the hardest year” for his business. Still, he said he was not necessarily planning to close Gourmet Again. He reportedly told employees of the store’s closing on May 28.
“Closing the doors was a last-minute decision,” he said. “It wasn’t something we knew about weeks ago. I informed everyone as soon as I knew it was happening. Over the last year, we had tried to do winter specials, Uber Eats and Grub Hub, but business was just down.”
When asked about customers who still have outstanding credits or gift certificates for Gourmet Again, Hoffman declined to comment on the matter.
(Jerry Schlichting, Gourmet Again’s former longtime general manager and proprietor of Clean Cuisine caterers, said he will honor all Gourmet Again gift certificates and credits for holiday and shiva trays — over a yearlong period — after opening a store in September at Crondall Corner Shops Shopping Center in Owings Mills. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 443-377-5154.)
Hoffman said he is grateful to his customers and has been proud to serve the community.
“Pikesville is where I work and live, and this community has supported me since I started working at Gourmet Again in 1996,” he said. “This is sad for me, for my employees and for everyone in the area. I did the best I could to make as many people as possible happy with our food.”
Also see: A Caterer for All Seasons