In 1999, Inga Bowyer and her sister, Gina Green, set up an online business called GermanyDeli.com. Bowyer, who spent most of her formative years in Germany, and her sister “worked out of a small Southlake office that has a storage room with food-laden shelves,” according to a Star-Telegram article at the time.
Because business owners were still figuring out how to promote themselves on the web, word of mouth was important, so Bowyer dropped a large basket of her wares by the Star-Telegram to show what the business offered. That led to the aforementioned article, which led to an explosion in business.
“We had a lot of local phone calls, and then about a month later, we started getting all these online orders,” Bowyer says. “They all came in clusters. Finally I asked someone, ‘How’d you hear about us?’ ‘Well, it was in our paper.’ “
And the time, the Star-Telegram was part of the Knight-Ridder chain, and the story had run on news wires and was picked up by papers in other cities. “As it got picked up in other markets, we’d get these clusters of orders,” Bowyer says.
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The online operation eventually added a small brick-and-mortar in Southlake, and proved so successful that it needed to move to a larger location off of Texas 121 in Colleyville.
But in August 2018, the online operation closed. Growth could not keep up with rising food and shipping prices during the past couple of years.
Bowyer suspects, but can’t be sure, that the food-price increases had to do with the possibility of higher tariffs on products from Europe. The online operation filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and shut down at the end of August. Remaining inventory was sold at the retail store, which did not file for bankruptcy, but, without the online side to supply it, had to close Sept. 21.
But it was more than rising food and shipping costs that led to the closure. There was also an increase in interest rates for short-term loans.
“In our business, where you’ve got the real, real super-busy season of October, November, December,” Bowyer says, “and then it kind of slows down after the first of the year, and it’s especially slow during the summer, you often have to count on short-term, or what you call ‘bridge loans’ just to get us through the lean times. It became harder to find low-interest short-term loans, and that was part of the struggle.”:
The owners tried to sell the company to investors; one company sounded promising but had to withdraw because of limitations on how much it could invest. “They said ‘We’ll revisit in a year,’ “ Bowyer says. “And we said, ‘Well, we don’t have a year.’ “
German Deli announced the closing on its Facebook page, with a message that read in part: ““Our slogan has always been, ‘It’s not about the food, it’s about the memories!’ We will miss you all so very much and will cherish the memories.”
The majority of the business was online, with customers in most of the U.S. and in Canada. “Our store was significant to our business,” Bowyer adds. “We did around a million dollars in sales with the products in the store.”
The Texas 121 (aka State Highway 121) location of the store is not far from where the Londoner plans to reopen after shutting down its Colleyville Boulevard location in September. And Watauga’s Chef Point Cafe is planning to open a second locatioin nearby this fall.
In 2017, Lidl, a German discount grocer, was approved for a Colleyville location. That’s expected to open in 2019 at 4007 Colleyville Blvd.
Bowyer says that the German Deli owners are focusing on the bankruptcy, which is a new experience for her — and she’s 70. Her sister turns 69 next week. And her husband is 75. Bowyer is expecting the process to take some time.
“After that, I don’t know,” she says, adding with a bit of a laugh: “I can’t picture any of us sitting back and retiring after working so hard for 20 years. It’s just hard to imagine getting up and not doing anything all day.”