Updated: Aug 27
What draws people to stand in line for hours at a grand opening party of a family-owned man'oushe shop in Rockville, Maryland?
Some would say the answer is viral social media marketing or a strong local fan base. Z&Z, a family-owned company selling spices and flatbreads that draw on their Middle Eastern heritage, definitely has both. Yet for me, and I suspect for many other attendees of Z&Z's '80s themed grand opening party who appeared to stand in line joyously, it goes beyond that.
Z&Z uses food to tell stories in a way more striking and authentic than most brands I've encountered. I stood in line at their grand opening party, which thankfully moved quickly though it never seemed to wane in the hours we were there, in part because of their skill at storytelling. I know many others were there for that reason as well. Much of their marketing is social media focused and they manage it themselves.
Video Description: Scenes Anela’s visit to Z&Z in Maryland with narration from the owners, the Dubbaneh brothers, discussing carrying on their family’s legacy and celebrating their Palestinian heritage.
The Dubbaneh brothers started Z&Z in 2016, working to grow their business from one single Wednesday farmers market in DC to what it encompasses today: a regional presence in Whole Foods, they ship frozen man'oushe throughout the country, you can order spices from them directly, and they now have a brick and mortar location selling man'oushe in Rockville, Maryland.
Their family immigrated from Palestine and Jordan to the United States in the 1980s and their grandfather and uncle opened a fried chicken and sub shop, taking a route many immigrants take into food service. For more than thirty years their family sold American food from that business, the Chicken Basket. Today, Z&Z sells foods that represent their cultural heritage from the same location in Rockville where the Chicken Basket once operated.
The folks behind Z&Z draws us into their story by showcasing their personality, connecting with consumers on a personal level, bringing us behind the scenes, and leaning into humor. Their social media marketing isn't particularly fancy or have high production value, rather it draws on elements most people can relate to like family, the "American dream," and love of food. That is what convinces us to try their goodies, come to their events, and most of all to root for them.
And to top it off, their products are amazing. Their za'atar, a common and beloved spice in the Middle East that they make from wild thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds is vibrant and flavorful, a perfect addition to hummus, eggs, or salads. Z&Z's man'oushe, a flatbread commonly eaten throughout the Levant region, is also delicious. Their flavor combinations are well-balanced and the dough has just the right amount of heft and chew while still being light. Z&Z's man'oushe reminds me of some of the best man'oushe I had during my years living in the Middle East.
Z&Z will be on my family holiday gift list for sure, especially their "mama and baba approved" gift pack, which I plan to send to family along with a link to some of their videos. For foodies who want something delicious and also want to feel connected to the businesses they support and to glimpse the journey that their food to their plates, Z&Z is a great choice.
You can shop Z&Z spices and frozen man'oushe online, or try out some hot and fresh man'oushe and shop for gifts at their new location at 1111 Nelson St, Rockville, MD 20850.
Disclosure: I didn't pay for the food in this video though I tried. I think I wisely gave up the fight for the bill based on previous experience watching some folks almost come to blows over who will pay while I lived in Jordan. This post also contains affiliate links.