All-Star time is my favorite time of the year.
After the hustle and bustle of the winter market season ends, the GOURMET INSIDER® team swaps numerous stories about the people we’ve met, insights about the business we have heard from retailers and vendors as well as who the shining stars are in our business.
Choosing our three All-Stars is a rewarding experience, but one that is also challenging. Often, it comes down to one small deciding factor. But this also shows the depth of talent in the independent gourmet housewares retail channel.
When selecting our annual honorees, we look for several key ingredients that when mixed together serve to create an all-star retailer. It’s not only about annual sales and store expansion. It’s about creating unique experiences for their customers; the passion they have for the business; leadership in their local community; leadership in our industry; and the willingness to share best practices to help other retailers prosper.
Take, for example, Holly Mangelsen of Cook’s Pantry in Rochester, MN and Acorn Pantry in Siren, WI. She started out in the gourmet housewares business by purchasing a 400-square-foot store in an area where she vacationed. Not only does she now run a 3,000-square-foot store three hours away — with a completely different demographic to make purchase decisions for — but she also owns a coffee shop and restaurant. Her intense passion for the food industry as a whole — deep-rooted in her family traditions — has made her a stand-out.
On the East Coast, Ben Salmon of South Orange, NJ-based Kitchen a la Mode has written a unique story and quickly become a leader in the business. Salmon, whose love of housewares is represented by the blond streak in his hair that represents a knife cut, has become a go-to person for retailers and vendors alike. Retailers want his input on day-to-day store issues while vendors seek Salmon’s advice when it comes to new products.
While they’ve been in the housewares business for two decades as store owners, Dave and Mary Weldy from Culinary Apple, located in Chelan, WA, still go to work everyday with enthusiasm that I can only muster up after two — or three — cups of coffee. During a recent visit to their store, it was inspiring to watch the Weldys’ and their staff interact with shoppers.
Laughing, smiling, happy, helpful — exactly the place I would want to shop and exactly the place I would make sure to repeat visit. In two hours, it was evident how they were able to carve out such a thriving business.
These All-Stars have all done something to make themselves different from other retail experiences and it shows. And while our All-Stars have done anything but rest on their laurels, we are following suit.
In an effort to better serve our gourmet insiders, we have re-branded our NOUVEAU®: Ultimate Tabletop supplement. Now called ON THE TABLE™, the special section is more about what’s trending in all facets of tableware, from barware and serveware to tabletop items and glassware.
We work hard to keep our fingers on the pulse of this industry and we hope — like our All-Stars — it makes us stand out from the rest of the pack.