DAYTON, Ohio -- As part of its annual chainwide promotion of French foods and cuisine, Dorothy Lane Market this month hosted its first Springtime in Paris Pastry Show.
At an advance ticket price of $20, the show attracted a sellout crowd of 130, who mingled to live piano music as they tasted a selection of more than 15 handmade desserts and wine.
Pastry chef and Food Network regular Ghyslain Maurais, the creator/consultant behind Dorothy Lane's Patisserie, helped the department's employees play host at the 2 1/2-hour evening event, which also introduced guests to the guimauve, a new gourmet marshmallow delicacy from Paris.
"The customers had a good time, and we had a good time doing it," said Jennifer Dahm, bakery retail manager for DLM's Washington Square store. "It's a great opportunity for them to try some new things, and I think it creates a lot of good word-of-mouth from them to their friends."
"We were tremendously surprised and pleased with the turnout," added Scott Fox, bakery director for DLM.
Dahm said she got the initial idea for the concept while working at the dessert table at the company's annual Holiday Food and Wine Show. In the weeks following those events, Dahm said that she regularly got questions and requests from attendees.
"For weeks afterward, I would have people coming up to me saying, 'I want to buy one of those things that had the berries on top of it at your holiday wine show,"' she said. "It was great -- I thought that we should have an event that just focused on pastries.
"Our pastries are mostly individually sized, and a lot of them cost $3.50 or $4.50. A lot of customers might not want to spend that much to try something new. Sampling events give our best customers a chance to try some things that they haven't gotten around to trying or were afraid to try because of the price."
Since many of the bakery department's regular customers had said they would like to meet Ghyslain, whose line of hand-painted chocolates are sold at the stores, Dahm first envisioned the event as an invitation only "thank you" for 30 or 40 of the department's top customers. Dorothy Lane's "Club DLM" loyalty program is one of the industry's most innovative, and often rewards the chain's top spenders with perks such as bouquets of flowers, Christmas gifts and coupons tailored to their buying habits.
"Calvin [Mayne, chief operating officer] loved the idea," said Dahm. "I was asked to bring it up at our quarterly meeting. Calvin and our Springboro store director decided to sell tickets and host it as an event, marketing it as the Springtime in Paris Pastry Show to coincide with our April in Paris-themed month."
A variety of tactics were used to market the show. A call-in interview Dahm held with a local radio station and an article she wrote for Dorothy Lane's monthly Market Report magazine -- sent to all Club DLM members -- were supplemented with bag stuffers and posters in each of the chain's three stores.
The annual April in Paris event at Dorothy Lane also includes a variety of promotions in other fresh food departments, this year including specials on items such as Epic Roots Mache salad greens in the produce department, a promotion on Brie and Camembert cheeses in the specialty cheese department, and tips on preparing "Beef Onglet" in the meat department.
French wines and imported honey, olive oils and mustards are also promoted in the grocery aisles. Dorothy Lane has also held similar monthly themed promotions highlighting foods from Spain, England and Italy.