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All-Star Blueprint

Welcome to the fifth annual GOURMET INSIDER® All-Stars edition.

Join me in congratulating this year’s All-Stars: Brad Pitner of Coastal Cupboard in Mt. Pleasant, SC; Dan and Diana Saklad of Whisk in Cary, NC; and Denise Lindbo of Gourmet Chef in Minot, ND.

You might wonder what makes a GOURMET INSIDER All-Star a GOURMET INSIDER All-Star.

There is no single blueprint for qualifying as a GOURMET INSIDER All-Star. It often comes down to a gut feeling by editors after reviewing nominations and input from several gourmet kitchenware suppliers. But of course, trusting gut instincts might be one of the most important traits shared by every GOURMET INSIDER All-Star and other stellar independent merchants in this business.

This year’s GOURMET INSIDER All-Stars, like those before them, have a passion and tireless work ethic that directs their craft for curating creative, productive assortments, their zeal for customer service; and their resolve to remain responsive and relevant on a hyper-local basis often against testing operational, fiscal and market conditions.

Despite the common bonds, each GOURMET INSIDER All-Star story is unique, like fingerprints that identify the nuance and personality of a business.

Pitner’s Coastal Cupboard, founded by his father, John, in 2006, retains its family-operated structure as it enforces the customer-comes-first credo fashioned from John’s days working in a high-end clothing store.

The Saklads of Whisk have blended traditional community-centric retailing values with a progressive zest for researching gourmet kitchenware stores across the world and networking with fellow storeowners as well as putting an emphasis on the use of digital marketing technology.

Everything is taken personally by Lindbo of Gourmet Chef, who greets frequent shoppers by name and personalizes newsletters and e-mails to carry that familiar, custom shopping experience beyond the store’s doors.

These retailers, unlike some corporately muzzled national chain counterparts, are as eager to share insights and experiences with other storeowners as they are to learn success stories from their independent retail brethren. These insights, experiences and success stories weave the fabric that keeps this tight- knit channel from fraying. And more often than not, the most successful of these retailers prove that for all the new-age advances in retailing theory and practice needed to compete today, the essence of successful independent merchandising is ageless.

With that, it is fitting that this issue edition also features a retrospective on Williams-Sonoma founder Chuck Williams as Williams approaches his 100th birthday on Oct. 2. GOURMET INSIDER contributing columnist, Frank Brady, a longtime collaborator with Williams and perhaps the housewares industry’s foremost authority on the legendary merchant, authored this exclusive story.

If there is an original blueprint for the acuity, enterprise and perseverance required to succeed in the kitchenware retailing business, Williams’ fingerprints are all over it.

While Williams-Sonoma has expanded into hundreds of stores under multiple brands subject to the corporate operating dynamics of a publically-traded chain, it continues to honor the independent retailing heritage and standards crafted by Williams.

His influence continues to course through the shops of today’s most accomplished kitch- enware merchants.

For that, I’m pleased to declare Chuck Williams an honorary GOURMET INSIDER All-Star.

Congratulations again to this year’s GOURMET INSIDER All-Stars… and every independent retailer that has trusted the gut instincts necessary to stand out in this business.

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