Dorignac’s: A Family Tradition Since 1947
Dorignac’s is a supermarket located on the outskirts of New Orleans that boasts a distinctive flavor as rich as the city itself. Dorignac’s has established a regional presence for quality service and products, working with local and international suppliers to provide fresh foods for a growing customer base. When Joe Dorignac, founder of Dorignac’s, first opened the store’s doors in 1947, many thought the endeavor was a huge risk. However, over the last half-century the Dorignac family and the company’s loyal employees have established more than just a name in the market; Dorignac’s now occupies a great portion of the local grocery business.
“Dorignac’s became a store that had everything local customers wanted,” says Ronald H. Dawson Jr., current president of Dorignac’s. “The store was a primary grocery source for many people.”
At one point Dorignac’s was the largest grossing grocery store per square foot in the country. The variety of products Dorignac’s offered became a true hallmark, earning the slogan “Yeah, we got dat.” After decades of offering a broad spectrum of fresh meats, produce and bakery items, not to mention the highest standards of customer service, shoppers continue to choose this local gem.
From the very beginning, Dorignac made a point to offer leading service in every department of his store. “He had a great reputation for his meat department,” explains Dawson Jr. “Dorignac’s offered high-quality meats and provided services that no one else did.” Today the store continues to offer the same variety of services that stand apart from the big-box chains. A team of expert butchers is on staff and can custom-cut steaks and roasts at no additional cost to customers.
The store continues to offer several specialty items and services. Dorignac’s offers a full catering menu for events and holidays, organized by in-house Chef Jezz Jones, with custom options available. The bakery offers fine goodies, including fresh bread, tasty donuts and attractive, trendy wedding cakes. A wide selection of fresh bread, pastries and, of course, the New Orleans tradition of Mardi Gras king cakes keeps customers coming back to the bakery.
“We have the best bakery in the city,” says Dawson Jr., adding that the deli is impressive, too. “We do a lot of sampling and taste tests,” he continues. “We’re a big hit for tailgaters.” All of the preparation for catering, baking and hot foods is done in house.
The produce department is keeping up with the times by going increasingly local, although Dawson Jr. explains that Dorignac’s has been buying from local farmers for more than 50 years. “We buy from a lot of local farmers,” he says. “The neighboring parish has a lot of citrus growers and we try to buy locally as much as possible to support regional farmers. Our major supplier is Associated Grocers in Baton Rouge. We have an uninterrupted supply.”
Keeping Up with the Times
While Dorignac’s faces many of the same challenges as other grocers in the market, like fluctuating commodities costs, Dawson Jr. says most of the hurdles are associated with being an old business in an old building. “One of our biggest expenses is repairs,” he explains. “Our structure is about 50 years old. Right now we’re getting a new roof.” The building isn’t the only part of the business getting old, either.
“We’re constantly trying to bring in younger shoppers,” explains Dawson Jr. His team has launched a marketing campaign targeting the younger generation through several forms of the media, especially social. “We’re on Twitter, Facebook and even Pinterest now,” he says. Dorignac’s sharply designed website offers links to forums, as well as company information, menus and coupons. As the ways people interact with businesses are changing, Dorignac’s refuses to be left behind.
Despite the presence of big-box stores, Dorignac’s continues to hold its own in the market. The competition has a lot to live up to. In the early days, shoppers came from out of state for the store’s specialty items, especially around the holidays. Every October Dorignac’s celebrates customer appreciation week with special deals and free lunches. The store has even been the backdrop for feature films and television shows.
Market success has opened Dorignac’s up for expansion, but, according to Dawson Jr., the company has not committed to any big plans yet. “We’ve looked at some opportunities,” he explains. “We don’t want to compromise our market, but we’re looking at a few other locations.” Out-of-state customers are still commonplace at the old store. “We have a following from all over Louisiana and beyond,” says Dawson Jr. “Some of the population that was shifted by Katrina continues to come back.”
Dawson Jr.’s biggest focus is on drawing in new customers while maintaining quality services and treating employees as well as he can. “We don’t need more market share,” he explains. “We’re economically successful.” Dawson Jr. is pushing for better health coverage and wages for Dorignac’s employees before physical expansion. “We’re looking at just taking care of the people we have.”
The Dorignac family attitude is an attribute carried over from when Dorignac himself opened the store decades ago. His business experience when applied to Dorignac’s model has brought upon great growth financially, while continuing to serve loyal customers and employees alike. Dorignac’s remains a classic, independent store after over half-a-century of operation and, according to Dawson Jr., that won’t change anytime soon.