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Kitchenware Retailers

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Relishing the Best of the Midwest with Relish Kitchen Store

By Micah Cheek

When you think of foodie hubs, Wisconsin might not be the first place that comes to mind. But Relish Kitchen Store in Sheboygan is catering to the needs of a town that has is raising its culinary standard, fueled by the many resorts and kitchenware manufacturers in the area.

Jane Davis-Wood opened Relish in anticipation of a market. There hadn’t been a kitchenware store in Sheboygan for 15 years, and the city was beginning a renaissance. “Our economy is home to many corporate headquarters. So we have a wonderful audience. It’s a place where there’s a lot of job openings, so we’re building a lot of housing to bring young professionals into the area instead of driving from Milwaukee every day,” says Davis-Wood.

“I knew it was coming, I decided to be in place and wait for them. Now, the nearest kitchenware store to Relish is over 50 miles away. The cities to the west of us are discovering us, because it’s easier to drive to us than to the city of Milwaukee. That’s been a happy surprise. We are drawing from a large area,” she adds.

As the customer base of Relish grows and draws from a larger geographical area, Davis-Wood has her eye on expansion. “We are doubling our size this year, were expanding to have a full demo kitchen. We’re a little crowded in here right now,” she says. “The unit next to us became available, [and] we thought, Oh, this won’t happen again for a long time; we can push this up a few years.”

Along with more storage and display space, the full demonstration kitchen will fill even more needs. “Other kitchens do the fancier cooking; there are people who don’t want that. They want to learn how to make a stock, how to use a knife. They want to have a good time and a good meal and know how to make it when they get home. The expansion and remodeling will be significant, but Relish is just expanding with the city itself. It’s going to be first quarter before we get that place up and running; I’m not worried about construction at all, especially with the construction that’s going on around town,” says Davis-Wood.

Relish has to be at the top of its game for the cooks of Sheboygan. The city on the coast of Lake Michigan is now a resort town and corporate headquarters. “We’re a cookware city. Polarware was here, a number of other companies were here. People want to know about the metal; we need to be aware of that kind of thing,” says Davis-Wood. “We have huge resorts in town that can use all the chefs they can get…. These are mostly chef-owned restaurants in the area, plus a culinary school a few blocks away. We do a nice little knife business with the students. Every high school here has a culinary program.”

With this audience, Relish has put a focus on high-end cookware and bakeware. “Cookware is very important to our business. Everyone’s tired of having to buy cookware every five years instead of just once,” says Davis-Wood. “We’re one of the only retailers that can supply Vollrath… Their cookie sheets have been named by “America’s Test Kitchen” as the world’s best cookie sheets.” Customers in the area tend to be focused on the fundamentals, and are looking for high-quality products for everyday cooking. “We want to show people how to feed their families, [that] Ina Garten stuff. We want you to be able to go home and recreate this the very next day,” says Davis-Wood. “The spiralizers have been really popular. I’m probably one of the few people who has made sweet potato waffles with spiralized sweet potatoes — we like to encourage people to learn how to cook [like that].”

Davis-Wood opened Relish with her daughter after both had careers in corporate retail. Those experiences taught some valuable lessons on what — and what not — to do. “When I was in big box stores, I wanted to learn about inventory control. At one point I realized that you had to stand behind the cashiers. They have exactly 11 minutes to get people through,” says Davis-Wood. “It’s called throughput, how fast can you get them through. And if they were taking longer, they were either counseled up or counseled out. Now you’ve ended up with a couple generations of shoppers who have never had full service. They don’t know what that is.”

In creating Relish’s retail experience, Davis-Wood went in a different direction. “It’s all about the experience, We get such a good return on customers; it’s more of an experience. It’s the way retail used to be when I first started in the 70s. You’ve got an audience that’s never experienced it,” says Davis-Wood. “It’s a lot more fun to ask Jane how to use the knife than it is to ask Amazon.”

The Cook’s Warehouse to Open New Suburban Atlanta Location

The Cook’s Warehouse has confirmed plans for a store and cooking school to open in Atlanta, Georgia suburb, Chamblee, by April 2017. The new location will be in Peachtree Station, previously known as Peachtree Crossing, a development at 5001 Peachtree Blvd. The retail center, near the intersection of Peachtree and Johnson Ferry Road, will be anchored by a 45,000 square Whole Foods Market, and will also include over a dozen other tenants.

Located just to the right of Whole Foods, this newest store under The Cook’s Warehouse umbrella will serve as a replacement for the store previously located in Brookhaven Station that closed in 2015. At that time, The Cook’s Warehouse founder & CEO Mary S. Moore pledged to continue her search for a better location and parking situation that would allow her to return to this rapidly growing market. While the new store is officially in the City of Chamblee, it’s only two miles north of the old location on Peachtree, and intends to serve the same market as well as draw in customers along the northeast corridor.

Due to the proximity of Whole Foods Market and non-compete on wine, the new store will be exclusively The Cook’s Warehouse and not cobranded with Sherlock’s Wine Merchant. At 4,500 square feet, the space will be 50 percent larger than the previous Brookhaven location. The larger footprint will include a teaching kitchen for hosting the company’s popular cooking classes, as well as an outdoor patio for grilling classes and special events. This showroom quality kitchen will feature Wolf/Sub-Zero appliances, a longtime vendor partner. The larger space will allow for bigger classes and a greater variety of products. The Cook’s Warehouse already operates additional Atlanta area locations in Ansley Mall, Decatur and Merchant’s Walk in East Cobb (another Whole Foods-anchored center).

The Cook’s Warehouse Founder and CEO Mary S. Moore says: “I appreciate the continued support from our customers in this market and am thrilled to have found an exceptional new location. The ease of parking, ingress and egress, and co-tenancy in this center are a much better fit for us and our customers.”

The Cook’s Warehouse is greater Atlanta’s premier, award-winning gourmet cookware store and cooking school with stores throughout metro Atlanta in Midtown, Decatur and East Cobb. It offers more than 15,000 products for the kitchen and operates the largest avocational cooking school in the Southeast conducting more than 800 classes yearly, often taught by local chefs, and has a large web-based delivery-by-post site.

Owned and operated by founder Mary S. Moore, The Cook’s Warehouse also retails high-end appliances; conducts private cooking classes for unique celebrations and corporate events, and is a pro bono partner with virtually every major cooking event and gourmet association in Atlanta.

Supplying Cooks in a Culinary Hub

By Micah Cheek

metierAs Austin, Texas’, culinary scene grows, both restaurant industry professionals and avid home cooks in the city are making their way to Métier Cook’s Supply for supplies and guidance from industry veterans. The store is owned by Jessica Maher and Todd Duplechan, who, in addition to stocking shelves and sharpening knives, run the restaurant, Lenoir, next door. “My husband and I have been in the restaurant industry for several decades. When we opened the restaurant we had this side project; we had been brainstorming some holes in what Austin had to offer,” says Maher. “A couple years later, a building adjacent to the restaurant was open. We opened the restaurant in 2012, and we opened the store in 2014.” They repurposed the property, a 1940s-era home, and divided up the rooms by types of stock. “We use probably half the actual building for store space; we have about 700 square feet just devoted to inventory,” says Maher. “One half is tools and knives, the other half is cookware. The middle room is where we have all the books and magazine publications, new and vintage.”

One of the needs Maher was filling was Austin’s lack of professional-quality knives. “Our top seller is knives, by far. People come in looking for knives want someone with experience finding the right knife for them,” says Maher. Tools and knife apparel are tied with cookbooks for second place. “We carry Japanese knives, but mostly western-style Japanese knives and domestic knives that are mostly handmade. It’s a preference on our part and it’s a general trend in the professional world.” Métier also serves a community that is very interested in the hand-crafted and homemade. “The trend is DIY, whether that’s fermentation [or] sharpening your knives, getting the tools you need to do it yourself,” says Maher. “There’s a lot of interest in both healthy eating, and there’s people who want just meat. Any kind of barbecue book is popular with us. There’s [also] a local book about hunting and fishing and preparing. I think it’s really DIY; people want to experiment with things. It’s not necessarily how to cook things in a hurry.”

In addition to books on barbecue and hunting, Métier stocks a large collection of both old and new cookbooks, which attracts cooks both looking for new techniques and older, out of print titles. “We have a pretty robust selection. I think that the books have to be usable, and serious. I don’t like single subjects unless it encompasses a lot of things,” says Maher. “The selection is where serious cooks can find a book for themselves.”

Positioned adjacent to a neighborhood that’s one of Austin’s most popular social hubs, Métier is an easy find for its millennial-leaning customer base. “We have two demographics. We have the professionals, those are usually low 20s to mid-30s, then we have the avid home cook, and that demographic is a little bit older – somewhere in the late 20s to mid-50s,” says Maher. “We have lots of regulars – mostly regulars and people visiting town. Almost everybody who works for us worked in the industry. They know a lot about food, about knives, about cooking; they can be really helpful that way.” Because these customers often come in knowing what they are looking for, Maher encourages a more hands-off approach to customer service. “I’ll ask them if they want something specific and if they want help,” says Maher. “We do not sell anybody anything… I don’t want to sell them something they don’t want.”

Métier also actively engages with Austin’s thriving food service community. “We give discounts to people in the industry; we have a job board that lists positions that are open,” says Maher. “We do a lot of community events; we let people do popups inside of the store if there’s something they want to promote. We sharpen knives on whetstones. My husband also teaches classes on knives so they can take care of them at home, or we can take care of them at the store.”

While Métier and the restaurant next door have been separate entities, Maher is trying to cultivate an experience that makes diners want to buy the tools to make the meals they had at Lenoir. “That’s definitely something we’re trying to capture. It’s kind of a slow building process,” says Maher. “It seems like a lot of the people who come to the store know that the restaurant is owned by the same people, but not a lot of people who go to the restaurant know about the store.” Looking towards the future, Maher has a long list of other ways she wants the business to expand as she sees a more informed millennial customer base coming in. “Adding wedding registries, adding services, building our reputation, and also continuing to have sales throughout the year rather than in the fourth quarter. We’re starting to get into things here already. We do book signings. It’s kind of diversification, that’s what we’re working on,” says Maher. “We fall into the millennial category ourselves, and I think they’re just starting to realize the right tools and knowledge will make them better cooks and realizing it’s just healthier.”

Eataly Surrounds Customers with Italian Food Culture

By Lorrie Baumann

Half the sales for the Eataly store on Fifth Avenue in New York City come from dry grocery, while the other half are rung up at the store’s five restaurants. “We didn’t know that in the beginning,” Lidia Bastianich told an audience at the 2016 Dairy-Deli-Bake Seminar & Expo in May. “People really like this combination.”

Eataly is owned by a partnership of Founder Oscar Farinetti, who started the concept in 2007 with a 30,000-square-foot store in Torino, Italy; the B & B Hospitality Group, which includes Lidia Bastianich, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich; and Adam and Alex Saper. Since then, the group has grown to include a store in Chicago, a second store under development in New York’s World Trade Center and planned stores in Boston, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo Brazil.

Lidia Bastianich is the host of PBS’ “Lidia’s Kitchen” television program and the author of 10 cookbooks as well as the owner of a specialty line of pastas and sauces. She opened her first restaurant in 1971 and moved into writing cookbooks from there. Julia Child discovered her and mentored her through the development of her television program. “One thing leads to the next,” she said.

The opportunity to be part of the grocery business came along with a meeting with Oscar Farinetti, who had opened his store in Torino and was eager to find the right partners to open a store in the United States. He found New York restaurateurs B & B Hospitality Group and the Saper brothers, and together, they opened the 50,000-square-foot Eataly store on New York’s Fifth Avenue in 2010. “We found the space, we liked the location,” Bastianich said. The store now gets 50,000 visitors a day, making it one of New York City’s major tourist attractions. “You have a glass of wine, and you travel around and shop,” Bastianich said. “How civilized is that?… It’s relaxed buying.”

The store is built around La Piazza, a hub and meeting place “where people can claim their space,” Bastianich said. Around La Piazza are salumi and cheese counters, bakery, enoteca, ice cream shop and coffee counter tucked between restaurants that use as their ingredients the same products that are sold on the retail floor. “It is embracing the customer 360 degrees,” Bastianich said. “We are the guarantee behind those restaurants.”

The salumi and cheese counter sells 200 to 300 pounds of American and Italian artisan cheese per day. The fresh mozzarella sold at Eataly is stretched on the premises from curds purchased from local artisans. Vegetables on the produce counters are fresh and seasonal, mostly local, with some imported Italian produce. A vegetable butcher on staff can clean the customers’ vegetable for them, so that a customer might pick out the week’s vegetables and then have a snack at the crudo restaurant that’s right there next to the produce counters and consult with the chef about what to do with the purchased produce once it’s at home. “Our target audience is everyone,” Bastianich said. “It’s a 360 degree concept of food from source to preparation and making the consumer a winner…. You need to make the customer feel like they have learned something and they can do it. And if not, they have the opportunity to learn it again in our store.”

Fish, both at the fish counter and in the restaurant, is seasonal and local. “It has to be fresh. The smell when you come to the fish counter should be clean,” Bastianich said. The fishmonger on duty will scale and fillet the customer’s purchase.

The meat counter features a lot of secondary cuts, and the animals from which it came were sustainably raised. “We check all of our producers,” Bastianich said.

The Eataly Bakery and Focacceria makes more than 11,000 loaves of bread per week. “And we sell it. We use it also in our restaurants,” Bastianich said. “Tastings of everything are so important in the store.”

The cooks behind the pasta-making counter make 5,000 pounds of fresh pasta per week. “A lot of it is taken home,” Bastianich said. “We also offer all of the time the opportunity to discuss pasta.” Eataly’s La Pasta restaurant and the La Pizza restaurant right next to it are the two most popular in the store. “We sell 3,000 pizzas a week, easily,” Bastianich said.

The pizza operation is conducted in partnership with Rosso Pomodoro, which built the ovens, and the only type of pizza sold is Neapolitan, which has a crust that’s a little puffier and a little wet in the middle compared to the Roman-style cracker-type crust that’s more familiar to New Yorkers. “You have to send a message. You can’t be everything to everybody,” Bastianich said.

Monthly promotions in the store focus on one of Italy’s 20 food regions at a time. “They are encouraged, demanded to bring in special products from the region,” Bastianich said. “We do have a lot of authentic small producers that have those authentic flavors.”

The La Scuola cooking school has event year-round with food and wine courses, demonstrations and lectures from renowned chefs. A typical class might feature three to four recipes with paired wines, for an experience that the school tries to make a complete immersion in the cuisine even though it’s not hands-on. The store also uses its various spaces as catering venues as well as spaces in which to hold educational and cultural events, often to raise funds for local charities. “You cannot be in business and be isolated from the community where you are doing business,” Bastianich said. “Life is too short. You have to eat well…. You need to be strong and stand your ground because America is ready. They love it.”

Food Culture Evolution Drives Kitchenware Market

By Micah Cheek

A new generation of celebrity chefs and their foodie friends is changing the foods we like to cook, and as our cooking evolves to follow the trend, so will our kitchenware needs. Celebrity chef, author and television host Anthony Bourdain addressed some of this during a talk to the Dairy-Deli-Bake Seminar & Expo in May, according to a story reported by Gourmet News magazine in its July issue.

According to Gourmet News, Bourdain pointed out that the way consumers shop for food is shifting radically. “What are people looking for in food now? What are they valuing? It has changed. I think what people are looking for more than anything else is perceived authenticity. They want that sense that they’re getting the real thing, the real deal,” he said. The author and television personality also noted that communities are becoming more ethnically diverse, exposing their members to a greater variety of options for what a meal looks like. This shift in perception could mean changes in the way people cook and serve at home.

Food educators like New School of Cooking in Culver City, California, are busy teaching the consequences of these demographic shifts in the cooking classes they offer to home cooks. From them, we can learn what these folks are interested in and what they are likely to buy. In conversations with food educators, the consensus seems to be that younger home cooks are still trying to learn the fundamentals. “People for whatever reason just really love those basic classes,” says Tara Redfield, Marketing Director, New School of Cooking. “We do a basic cooking series that’s four weeks long. We also do a 20-week course called Pro Cooking or Pro Baking. It’s great for someone who doesn’t want to be a professional, but wants to hone their cooking or baking skills.” The demographic for cooking classes has also changed, leaning younger than in the past.

For kitchenware retailers, this means stocking the basics and items for customers looking to try something new. The big three essentials for classes, according to Redfield, are high quality knives, sturdy tongs and cheese graters.

Greater ethnic diversity also means greater emphasis on authentic ethnic foods and flavors. The U.S. is projected to become even more ethnically diverse in the coming decades, and by 2055, the country won’t have a single ethnic majority, according to the Pew Research Center. Over the next five decades, this population change is expected to be driven by new Asian and Hispanic immigration, the Pew Research Center reports. In the speech reported by Gourmet News, Bourdain noted that 78 percent of Houston residents under the age of 30 are not of Anglo-Saxon family origin. “That’s a hell of a lot of people who grew up eating something other than meat loaf,” he said.

The preparation of authentic dishes that reflect the eating habits of people who grew up eating grandma’s kimchee and graduated to tacos and banh mi bought at street trucks raises some excellent opportunities for kitchenware retailers. The Nuni Tortilla Toaster, to name one example, matches that desire for authentic Latin cuisine with the convenience of a countertop appliance. The Nuni has a retro design with vertical slots for tortillas, much like a classic bread toaster, and is in the midst of an Indiegogo campaign to begin production. Imusa, meanwhile, has developed an appliance for making tortillas and other flatbreads from dough. The Imusa Electric Tortilla Maker presses and cooks simultaneously with nonstick plates, and features custom temperature controls.

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