The 34-year-old Towson University and Pikesville High graduate has owned Gourmet Again — a business he’s worked for since he was 14 years old — since 2013.
Husband to Melisa and father to Mason, 6, and Liam, 3 — and an avid golfer — Hoffman has worked to maintain the business’s “old-school neighborhood specialty market” feel by focusing on customers, treating employees like family and giving back to the community.
What has kept you in your hometown for all these years?
I know it. I’m confortable in Pikesville. People know me, and I’m a people person. I live, grew up and work within a four-mile radius. So there’s something special about that, because number one, family is very important to me. I’m not even three miles to my mother and three miles to my in-laws. You never know when you’re going to need your family.
I just feel right here. There’s nothing wrong with Pikesville to me in my mind. I can live the rest of my life here and be happy.
You were faced with taking over Gourmet Again or the store closing; why did you decide to take it over?
I have a very strong passion for food. I like what I do. Every single day, over 500 people come through this door, and I know most of their names. They now my name, they know my kids’ names.
I wasn’t going to give up on this, because there’s no place left like this: the old-school neighborhood specialty markets that delivered your meat, delivered your milk, delivered your deli meat and your smoked fish on Sundays. It just doesn’t happen anymore, and I don’t want to lose that. I wanted only to make it better. I had plans going right into it — like a liquor license. I fought tooth and nail to get a liquor license, and a seven-day liquor license.
I really was into this store and the neighborhood feel, I’ll be sitting at my desk doing paperwork and someone will come sit and just talk to me for an hour while I’m doing my work.
My employees are family. I have people who have worked here over 20 years. I think the longest run is 21 years, and I have two people working here that long. It’s nice to have that comfort.
When my regulars come in and [bakery manager] Tracey [Lyte] has their cookies on the counter waiting when they get there, there’s something to that.
What are some things people might not know about your business?
How much catering we do. And I’m not just talking simchahs and I’m not just talking shiva. I don’t want something that has 300 people, that’s not our comfort zone, but if you’re having 100 guests and you’re renting out a place or you’re putting up a tent in your house, that’s our thing. We love doing that, and we have a great catering staff a great catering manager [Ann Brewington] who was my trainer when I was 14 years old.
That, and all of our meat is hand-butchered here. We have a bone saw; we do it the old-school way. That was actually why I stayed working here … so I could end up in the meat department and learn that.
Tell us about your community involvement.
We’re members of Beth El. Mason goes to Hebrew school there, I was bar mitzvahed there, we were married there, we’re a Beth El family.
I do a lot of local philanthropy. Not just The Associated. I deal with Catholic Charities, I deal a lot with the Be A Hero event, which is coming up for the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. I do some work with the Baltimore School for the Arts, the Shirts vs. Skins [high school] basketball tournament. I used to be very involved with the Chamber of Commerce. We donate a lot of money every year. Personally, I’ve served on synagogue committees and did IMPACT for a little bit.