Cindy Warner was chatting with a friend at the bar of a riverfront restaurant in Detroit a few months ago about her idea to bring a market to Detroit that would be much more than just a market.
She envisioned it to be “not just a grocery store, but an espresso bar, a bistro, and meeting place, with an open kitchen where there could be cooking classes” — in other words, a destination. And she was looking for the right location.
A stranger happened to overhear the conversation and came over. “Hey, I’ve got a place,” she recalls him saying as he handed her his business card.
It was Dwight Belyue, who was in the process of developing the Crystal Lofts Building on Woodward Avenue in Midtown Detroit, and he needed the right occupant for the ground floor.
And that’s how Zaccaro’s Market — named for Warner’s Italian grandfather who landed at Ellis Island and, like so many immigrants, went into the food business — became a shining presence on the ground floor of the handsomely rebuilt Art Deco structure on the northeast corner of Woodward and Watson.
Warner says she was not only inspired by her grandfather, but also by the fresh-foods approach in California, where she lived for several years in Palos Verdes while in the software business.
She had hoped to open a store in her hometown of Traverse City, but when that project fell through, she briefly opened a prototype Zaccaro’s in the resort town of Charlevoix. It closed after a few months.
The Detroit Zaccaro’s looks to have staying power. It’s a handsome, high-ceilinged space, with big uncovered windows and uncrowded aisles. Islands display care-fully chosen products, ranging from just about anything produced in Michigan to jams and jellies from Stonewall Kitchen and organic herbs in packets that hold just one tablespoon.
Michigan-made boutique beers fill one glass-windowed cooler, and Michigan wines are stocked in the cozy little wine cellar. A fresh-produce section offers a selection of vegetables and fruits, and stock also includes artisan breads and chocolates.
The deli counter, with its nicely displayed cheeses and Italian meats, produces the paninis that patrons carry to one of the café-style tables under a market umbrella in one corner of the space, or to a seat at the gleaming espresso bar.
Offerings also include prepared foods, such as curried chicken salad, homestyle macaroni and cheese, and a daily quiche.
What’s especially impressive about Zaccaro’s is that no single element overpowers the others. It’s a mix, just as Warner intended. A market, yes, but much more.
You could say it’s a cross between Plum Market and Papa Joe’s, on a smaller, more personal scale. And to say it’s been welcomed by the loft-dwellers in the neighborhood is an understatement.
Cities are defined by small projects such as this one as much as they are by the bigger, splashier developments.
Zaccaro’s certainly adds to the quality of life in the heart of the city. — Molly Abraham
3100 Woodward, Detroit; 313-832-3400, zaccarosmarket.com.