Since the age of 15, David Estafen has pursued his passion for culinary arts, serving in a number of different capacities for Akron, Ohio’s largest locally-owned restaurant known as The Mustard Seed Market and Café.
Today, at the age of 32, David is currently the head chef and one of three proud co-owners of Dubuque’s popular grocery and organic deli establishment known as The Food Store.
The Food Store is a family-owned business which has successfully served the eastern Iowa community for over 30 years, beginning with David’s father-in-law, Michael Breitbach, who operated the establishment from 1983 - 2009 under the name Breitbach’s Farmer’s Market Food Store.
However, the path to running his own grocery store was not exactly what David had in mind, or even felt he was qualified to do.
Growing up, the self-educated culinary scholar spent the majority of his time in the kitchens, working on new dishes and fine-tuning his cooking and baking skills.
In 2007, the Ohio native and his wife, Maple, decided to move to Hawaii where they began their own food market business. The tropical state known for juicy pineapples, sandy beaches, and exotic hula dancing also provided patrons with tropical style Farmer’s Markets.
David and Maple worked the local markets, setting up a café style, ready to order booth, which drew a lot of attention and revenue. As a result of their success, the couple decided to pursue opening their own restaurant in the town of Pahoa, Hawaii.
“We were actively in Pahoa (Hawaii) renovating a building and putting in a kitchen,” explained David.
However, a number of obstacles during the renovation and permit acquisition process delayed their dream, eventually shutting it down all together.
“It lost some traction as a result of the owner not always being around and issues acquiring permits, “explained David.
The highly-skilled chef never considered doing anything more than working in a kitchen or next to a grill.
In 2010, David’s father-in-law contacted him about taking over Breitbach’s Farmer’s Market Food Store.
“He offered to sell us the store and said he was ready to move on,” explained David. “But, grocery really wasn’t our thing. Obviously we’re already in Hawaii, one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and to draw us away from that, it would have to be something that really appealed to us."
At the time Michael made his original offer, the Estafen’s were already in the process of getting their new business underway. Upon coming to terms their dream of running their own Hawaiian Café was not going to happen, the Estafen’s were not sure what to do next.
Three weeks later Michael agreed to help his daughter and son-in-law build a kitchen inside the Dubuque establishment if they would agree to purchase it. That was the selling point David needed, and in less than four months the Estafen’s moved back to the Midwest to pursue their new venture.
The first three months were spent giving the interior and exterior a present day modern makeover while at the same time installing a kitchen.
As a result of all their hard work, in 2011 the state run organization known as Main Street Iowa, an organization dedicated to helping businesses with long-term revitalization of their historic commercial districts, honored the owners with ‘Best Facade Improvement $15,000 and Under’ Award.
Finally in 2010, The Food Store officially reopened under new management; complete with a fresh look and equipped to serve the general public with knowledge and a taste of healthy eating.
In addition to being a conventional grocery store, the quaint establishment includes a modern style deli café where shoppers can sit and enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner. A huge menu selection which consists of unique organic dishes and high-end entre items most restaurants in eastern Iowa do not currently offer.
“We grow a lot of our own produce that we prepare in our deli as well as sell in our produce department,” said David. “We also have incredible connections with local farmers as far as our meat and poultry goes.
The organic produce served at The Food Store is grown at Hideaway Gardens located in Durango, Iowa, approximately 12 miles outside city limits. Meat is sourced in from multiple farmers within a 15-mile radius with poultry from Minnesota and pork from Wisconsin.
“We deal all farmer direct, there is no middle man. The farmer is getting all the money,” explained David, “Our meat is organic and has even been USDA certified."
The Dubuque chef credits the success of his businesses to providing each shopper with the ultimate customer service experience in addition to his staff’s ability to educate the community on the benefits of organic foods.
“When you walk into the store, you’re going to see one to three of the owners right away, and we’re going to help you with whatever you need,” said David. “Plus, there’s an undeniable element of public service to what we do here at The Food Store. What we give people is something they can hold onto forever, such as education, information, the ability to make a more informed choice for themselves, their families, their communities, and the environment."
Each owner is not only well versed in the study of organic foods, but has spent the majority of their existence living the organic lifestyle.
“So if anyone has a question pertaining to organic foods, we can answer those questions because we’ve all lived this way,” said David. “We’re willing to take customers through the whole process of organic foods."
Although the Estafen’s finally have their own corner store establishment, each week they still enjoy setting up their booth at the local Farmer’s Market and serving the community with a vast selection of made to order food items and dishes including egg rolls, doughnuts, and omelets.
Visit The Food Store website for more information.
Content contributed by Matthew Cassady, IASourceLink. IASourceLink is a proud affiliate of U.S. SourceLink, America's largest resource network for entrepreneurs.