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Kitchenware Retailers

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Maple Run Emporium Celebrates Six Years in Potsdam

Maple Run Emporium is celebrating its sixth anniversary at 49 Market Street in Potsdam, New York. The shop opened on April Fools Day 2011, and has been expanding its offerings ever since.

“The original idea was to sell maple candy and maple syrup,” said Owner Mary Hilton. “And it just snowballed. We’re not only a specialty maple shop, but also a kitchen store, gift shop, art gallery, and gourmet grocery. Ultimately, that’s an emporium!”

With more than 2,000 square feet available in the historic brick building, there was room to grow. The shop now features an Artisan Gallery of local artwork including paintings, pottery, wood-turnings and baskets. The shop’s main aisles showcase an impressive array of cookware, knives, cutting boards, utensils, textiles, stemware and books.

Maple specialty foods remain the focus of the shop, and there are continually new entries to this niche. “The current trend is bourbon-barrel aged maple syrup,” Hilton noted. “We had only one brand a few years ago, and now we have five.”

She also pointed out the popularity of maple-smoked products. The smoky maple wood flavor is featured not only in syrup, but also cheese, tea and salt. Maple syrup and maple sugar also add flavor to some unexpected products such as sardines, cocktail mixes and soy sauce.

Having the opportunity to taste a multitude of maple concoctions led Hilton to introduce the Maple Run Emporium brand of gourmet foods, which now includes maple teas, maple coffee, maple seasoning peppers, a maple chocolate drink mix and pancake mixes. The most recent introduction is Maple Organic Tea, which was just released this year.

The fragrance of maple is also a wonderful addition to scented products, Hilton said. The scent is created with essential oils and essences and added to formulations for the Maple Run Emporium brand of kitchen and bath products, which includes lotions, hand creams, body scrubs, candles, soaps and cleaners. So far this year Maple Run Emporium has introduced two new hand creams – Maple & Lavender and Maple & Rum.

“I’m always excited to find a unique new item and put it on the shelves,” Hilton said. “When people come in and ask ‘What’s new?’ I am absolutely delighted to show them!”

Making Fantasies Come to Life

By Micah Cheek

Near the southern tip of California wine country, Kitchen Fantasy is catering to home cooks and restaurateurs alike.

Ernie Rodriguez, who has been selling kitchenware since 1984, has made his store thrive in the same shopping center as a Target and a Home Goods. “It’s a symbiotic relationship,” says Rodriguez. “A lot of times, [customers] go into Target looking for something and they’re disappointed.” Kitchen Fantasy maintains the attitude that the store should do everything online shopping does, including offering high value.

To compete with online prices, as well as the superstore prices nearby, Rodriguez buys in high volume. “We’re stocked floor to ceiling, merchandise on merchandise,” says Rodriguez. “It’s more pleasing to the customer to see that we’re stocking a full range of products.” Buying high volumes of merchandise obviously has its own drawbacks. If a product doesn’t sell well, there is a lot of stock to work through. This is where Kitchen Fantasy’s other major demographic comes in. “A lot of times, we’ll be sitting on a product for six to eight months, and a restaurant [owner] will come in and say, ‘This is the perfect guitar-shaped serving dish, can we get more of them?’”

The store has invested greatly into relationships with local restaurants. “We’re selling Chefworks and high-end knives for them, too,” says Rodriguez. “A lot of the local restaurants want me to just be a restaurant supply.” Surprisingly, professional equipment has sold quite well to home cooks as well. “Most of the homes here are a bit larger, with larger backyards. People will come in and buy stuff for these big events they do,” says Rodriguez. “Mom at home loves the restaurant supply stuff. It’s really great having those hotel pans, they’re so versatile.”

Kitchen Fantasy’s knife sharpening service also caters to both professional and home cooks. Along with a sharpening service with pickup and delivery for restaurants, Kitchen Fantasy has in-store sharpening for everyone. “People wash their knives in the dishwasher. They’re cutting on hard surfaces or granite countertops. We really stress making a conversation,” says Rodriguez. “People will come in and say, ‘You sharpened my knives two weeks ago and they’re already dull.’ That’s a good thing, that’s a conversation that will usually end in a sale. We can get them something that will hold an edge better for only $20 more.”
Kitchen Fantasy spares 400 square feet to cooking classes, currently taking on 12 classes a month on subjects ranging from French galettes to sushi. “Our sushi classes are the place where lots of people try sushi for the first time,” says Rodriguez. “We have a lot of frustrated chefs over here that want to put duck on the menu, and we’re the place where people get to try things like that.” Kids classes for parties are popular at the store, and Rodriguez doesn’t go easy on them. “With the popularity of baking shows on TV, they want to do baking competitions. We give a little class, and then they prepare the pastries for a judge the parents choose,” says Rodriguez. Kids from 8 to 13 learn techniques as complicated as crème anglaise and even souffles. “When you start with a good foundation, those things aren’t intimidating for you,” says Rodriguez. “If you learn how to make a souffle at 10, you’re up for almost any challenge.”

In the Temecula area, two products stand out with growing popularity. Sous vide circulators have gained interest with the potential for temperature-perfect steaks. “A few restaurants in town use it. It really helps your steak not get sent back,” Rodriguez adds. One of the selling points Rodriguez points out is the fact that it can hold foods at temperature for up to 12 hours without ill effect, and some cheaper cuts of meat are even improved by all that time in the water bath. Fermenting is popular because of the proposed health benefits, and a growing interest in artisan cooking. “You can always buy a fermenting crock for 200 or 300 dollars,” says Rodriguez. “That always stopped the home cook because you can buy a hundred pounds of sauerkraut for that! I picked up a line of home fermenting caps and weights, that’s a lot better for them.”

While these products have been on the rise, one tool is surprisingly stagnant for the area: grinders. While the casual observer would expect the interest in gluten free eating and natural foods in southern California would increase sales in flour makers, but the results haven’t been as expected. I have a few customers that who are really into it, but it’s one of those products that sits on the shelf for a long time. It’s sad, because there are stores that sell grains and rices in bulk, but it’s not really taking off right now.”

Like many other retailers, Rodriguez has noticed customers looking for more open stock pans rather than full sets, as a way to save money and specialize their kitchen sets. He has also been giving more advice on cookware materials and the effects of nonstick linings.

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.”

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