Dean & DeLuca, the luxury food chain, began life in 1977 as a downtown Manhattan destination for mascarpone, balsamic vinegar, radicchio and other specialties most Americans had never heard of, much less tasted.
Based on the reputation built by the store’s founders, Giorgio DeLuca and Joel Dean, who curated fine food at their airy shop in SoHo, Dean & DeLuca has become a global brand since its first offshoot opened in Tokyo in 2003. As of today, there are more than 60 Dean & DeLuca cafes and markets operating in Asia, and three more in the Middle East.
But in the United States, the chain, now owned by a Thai real estate magnate, is foundering. In the last week, the company has confirmed that it is closing three of its nine stores, including a high-profile “concept” store in downtown Manhattan that opened just three months ago.
Since it was bought by Pace Development in 2014, Dean & DeLuca has developed all the signs of a company with debt problems: It pulled out of lease agreements, promised and revoked sponsorships, closed its stores in North Carolina, Kansas and Maryland, and has consistently withheld payment from vendors, who are increasingly vocal in their outrage.
Small vendors in New York City alone said they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bien Cuit, a bakery in Brooklyn known for its burnished croissants: $56,000. Colson Patisserie, purveyor of French macarons and other sweets: $24,000. Amy’s Bread, which allowed the company to stock its famous layer cakes: $51,000.
“It stings because so many of us bakers grew up alongside Dean