Andy Hoffman has always enjoyed working with food.
It began when he was 14 years old and landed a job at Gourmet Again in Pikesville. Hoffman took out the trash and washed dishes while learning the ins and outs of the food business from owner Harold Hackerman.
Hoffman dreamed of one day owning his own store, a dream that became reality last month when he purchased the store from Hackerman. He said he is excited about taking Gourmet Again, a fixture at 3713 Old Court Road since 1994, into the 21st century.
“When I lost my dad in 2004, I knew this was a dream I wanted to pursue,” said Hoffman, 30. “I love food and working with people. This is the ultimate dream for me.”
A graduate of Towson University, Hoffman tried working in other fields, but he returned to Gourmet Again as its general manager about six years ago. He said the opportunity to build a business in his home community was too good to pass up.
“I love Pikesville and the people in the community,” Hoffman said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Hoffman said Gourmet Again will continue to offer top-quality specialty foods and homemade dishes while trying to be flexible to the customers’ needs. The intimate relationship with customers, he said, dates back more than 40 years when Hackerman’s uncles, Stanley and Coleman Pressman, first opened Gourmet Again, known at the time as The Gourmet Shop. The Pressmans closed the shop in 1991, and Hackerman opened his business at the same location. This is when the store became known as Gourmet Again.
While maintaining the store’s small-town feel, Hoffman said he is slowly working to add his own imprint, which includes improving the ability to make purchases online, expanding item selection and constantly seeking feedback from customers on what he should keep in stock.
“We’re like Wegmans but just in-side 10,000 square feet,” Hoffman said. “We offer the food people grew up with in Pikesville, only we’ll prepare it for you. If we don’t have what you’re looking for, we’ll order it for you. nWe want to let people know there are still businesses in the area that offer a gourmet product at quality prices while offering top-notch customer service.”
It is that hometown feel that keeps customers such as Bev Lipsky coming back on an almost daily basis. She said Hoffman has a natural ability to work with customers and provide food fit for any occasion. Dishes nrange from fresh fish for dinner to traditional High Holiday foods.
“I’ve been shopping at the store since its original incarnation, and I’m just impressed at the steps they will take to ensure you are a happy customer,” Lipsky said. “Shopping at Gourmet Again is like going to a European market without ever leaving Pikesville.”
Lipsky said it’s apparent that Hoffman loves food, his customers and the local community.
“He just understands the needs of the community,” she said.
Hoffman’s wife, Melissa, said she has supported him from the moment he expressed interest in buying the store. She knew if he didn’t buy it then he would regret it for the rest of his life.
“With big risk comes big reward,” she said. “He has the perfect personality for this business, and he has a passion that is unmatched. He always knew he wanted to own a portion of the store. He just didn’t know it would all be his so soon.”
Hoffman said he understands every aspect of running the business, but is still adjusting to having the ultimate say over the entire operation and the store’s 35 employees.
“We want this place to feel like a family business, but it’s important to not to forget it is a business and needs to be run like one,” he said. “We have big goals here and hope to be a fixture in Pikesville for many more years to come.”