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Amid Coronavirus Concerns, Housewares Stores Get Creative

While some independent housewares stores have chosen to shut down for a few weeks as concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus continue to penetrate the U.S., others have turned to more out-of-the box ways of doing business.

Ashley Berry, owner of Someone’s In The Kitchen, located in Rapid City, SD, has instituted social distancing within the store and has limited her in-store hours. However, to continue to service customers that are looking to make purchases, she has turned to curbside pick-up as an added service, as well as a way to keep business flowing. She noted that customers could call her with their needs and she and the staff would plan to help them however possible.

“We remain open during these times and will seek to accommodate the situation as it evolves,” she said.

Curbside pick-up has also been put in place by a variety of other kitchen stores, including Escalon, CA-based The Butler’s Pantry; Rogers, AR-based Honeycomb Kitchen; and Pryde’s Old Westport, in Kansas City, MO, among others.

While that works for some retailers, others have had to make some further adaptations to their business models.

KC Lapiana, owner of Pittsburgh, PA-based In The Kitchen, which has been mandated to close for 15 days, has turned to Facebook in order to keep her community engaged with the store. She said the store will be posting live demonstrations through Facebook Live and she will also work with customers who would like to shop a bit more personally, via FaceTime.

“We are very proactive in our attempt to keep our community of loyal customers apprised of our actions going forward,” she said.

Maddie Jensen of Eversharp Kitchen Store MN, located in Minneapolis, MN, is also turning to social media to keep her community engaged and the brand top-of-mind for customers when things begin to settle down.

“We’re really focusing on social media, doing some flash sales at really good pricing for shipping. I’ll be doing some behind the scenes just so people don’t forget about us. We’ve gotten really positive feedback so far,” she said.

Steve Belcher, co-owner of Charlottesville, VA-based The Happy Cook, has also been offering curbside pick-up and free home delivery within 15 miles. However, as the retailer just opened its culinary center, Belcher is currently making plans to put together online cooking demonstrations while people in his area are staying in. This, he explained, would not only keep his store top-of-mind with customers, but would also help alleviate some of the lost wages from local chefs.

However, there are several issues at play during this time in regards to staffing, retailers told Gourmet Insider. One is keeping them safe and another is keeping them employed. Some retailers have had to cut staff completely, some have reduced hours and some have furloughed part-time employees. But others are trying to figure out ways to keep people on the sales floor, even in these circumstances.

Liana Esposito Ottaviani, of Fante’s Kitchen Shop in Philadelphia, PA, is one of the housewares store that is attempting to create opportunities for staff to continue to make some money.

“We are not yet on full-on lockdown, so we are inviting any staff who wish to come in and work, and offering phone orders for pre-paid curbside pickup. We are doing our best to support our staff and keep everyone safe right now,” she said.

Susan Dolinar, owner of Winchester, VA-based Nibblins, said that she has had to cut staff to a bare minimum during these times. But she is figuring out ways to engage the customers that want to shop while socially distancing.

“We are offering free delivery within 15 miles from the store, curbside pickup and FaceTime shopping. I [also]want to share recipes and tips. People are still shopping, even though sales are down,” she said.

Editor’s Note: The circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are ever-changing. GOURMET INSIDER® is committed to reporting accurate information at time of publish, however, conditions are subject to change.

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