Vol. LXII, No. 27
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
SPECIAL SELECTION: We are a specialty food store, carrying hundreds of products. Many are exclusive to this part of the country. Ronnie Staffenberg, owner of DeLiteful Foods, is shown holding a variety of gluten-free baked goods.
Ronnie Staffenberg and her husband Drew, owners of DeLiteful Foods, are clearly filling a need. This retail specialty food store, located at the Glendale Plaza, 4040 Quakerbridge Road in Lawrenceville, offers a variety of safe and healthy food choices to customers with food allergies and medical conditions.
Formerly a special education teacher, Ms. Staffenberg, with her husbands help, decided to open the store in 2006. I worked for 28 years in the New Jersey educational system, and I was getting ready to retire, she recalls. I loved teaching, but the time was right to move on. We had talked about opening a store, and the opportunity came along.
I had been following a Weight Watchers diet, and my thought was to offer a selection of foods, emphasizing weight loss. Im mostly not a big risk-taker, but it never entered my mind that the store wouldnt work out. I felt we were certainly filling a need.
Low-fat, low-salt, low-carb, low-cal, sugar-free, lactose-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, Kosher, organic, and portion-controlled products are on DeLiteful Foods shelves and in the freezer. Breads, bagels, muffins, cookies, candies, cakes, chips, cereals, and pasta are all included, along with frozen meals, various spreads and jams, peanut butter (also soy and sunflower seed butter, among others), chocolate mousse mixes, and energy bars, to name only a sampling of what is available.
Ms. Staffenberg has been happy to help customers with their special dietary needs, but what she hadnt expected was the tremendous call for gluten-free products. Close to half of the products in the store are gluten-free now, and the people who want it are all ages. One customer has an 18-month-old child with gluten intolerance.
The gluten-free section of the store includes everything from frozen entrees and French toast to special pasta, breads, muffins, and cakes. Customers frequently call to order gluten-free birthday cakes.
There is also a gluten-free tasting table, with many samples of cookies, chips, and cereals for customers to try. In addition, another tasting table offers a variety of other products.
DeLiteful Foods is about to open a new cafe, offering sit-down and take-out service, and Ms. Staffenberg notes that, In the cafe, we have two of everything two microwaves, two toasters, two cutting boards, two sets of cutlery because of the risk of cross-contamination of appliances. People with gluten intolerance cannot even eat anything that might have been near gluten.
The cafe will offer a variety of items, including gluten-free. You can come in the morning for yogurt, a gluten-free bagel, and coffee, she points out.
Other items on any given day may include coleslaw, gluten-free Waldorf pasta salad, chicken fruit salsa, vegetarian vegetable soup, cold melon soup, and sandwiches, such as roast beef, turkey, ham, and gluten-free bread. Hebrew National hot dogs are available, as are soft drinks, tea, and a variety of coffees.
Also offered is non-fat vanilla and chocolate Carbo Thin soft serve, at only eight calories per ounce. We are the only ones in New Jersey to have it, says Ms. Staffenberg, and its delicious.
The response to the store has been all that she has hoped for. We have people coming from all over, including Philadelphia and the suburbs. One person comes every month from Basking Ridge, N.J., and another comes in every Monday afternoon on the dot of 2. People are so glad to find food they can eat. Customers talk to each other in the store, sharing information. We have more than 1000 products in the shop, and there is really something for everyone.
Two of the most popular products are low fat and low calorie zucchini muffins (with 110 calories) and American Fries, crispy noshes with ketchup seasoning. Small single-serve bags of chips and other snacks, with labeled nutritional and diet information, are also favorites.
We are definitely a special needs store for people with food allergies and special medical conditions, such as diabetes, points out Ms. Staffenberg. To serve our customers even better, we are constantly learning about new products. We go to food shows, and also customers share information with us. We always try to fill special requests.
Many customers are regulars, she adds. They are like friends now. We are about service and personal attention here. We have developed friendships and a family feeling with customers.
I love this, she says, smiling. I love meeting the customers. Im such a people person. In this job, I can make people happy all day long. Also, we have a very child-friendly environment. All children are welcome, and we have crayons and toys, things for them to do.
The inviting shop, with its attractive decor and displays, is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m.. The cafe hours are the same. (609) 586-7122. Website: www.delitefulfood.com.
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