“Service Above Self.” That motto is what guides Rotary club members around the world as they work to support their local communities. It is also a motto that Nancy and Scott Schneider, co-owners of Edwardsville, IL-based Chef’s Shoppe Gourmet Kitchen, a 2017 GOURMET INSIDER® All-Star, live by each day and have infused into the embodiment of their gourmet kitchenware store.
Married just a few years and guided by their entrepreneurial spirits, the couple was ready for a retail adventure. Nancy, a customer of Chef’s Shoppe, had already been working in retail when the store’s original owner mentioned the business was for sale.
“Scott grew up here. We were fond of the community and just thought, ‘Why not, we can do this’,” Nancy recalled.
They took over Chef’s Shoppe from original owner, Vicki Primrose, in 2006 and began building community spirit into the foundation of their ownership. Since then, the store has grown from a 2,000 square-foot store to a 6,500 square-foot store, with their community involvement growing in tandem.
“Edwardsville is a community that truly supports its local businesses. They are really into shopping local and make it a point to tell you that they will shop with you first for a particular item, even if you don’t end up having it,” said Schneider.
Nancy and Scott bring this thriving community spirit into the shop, sharing it with their employees to ensure they not only embrace it among themselves as a staff, but that it extends to each customer that visits the gourmet retail location.
One such example of this was the shop’s recent 20 Acts of Kindness program. To mark the store’s 20th anniversary, Nancy, Scott and the staff participated in a variety of charitable acts throughout the course of two months leading up to the 20th anniversary celebration. Each of the charitable endeavors were shared on the Chef’s Shoppe’s social media channels.
The staff delivered meals for the local Meals On Wheels program, donated time to Partner 4 Pets, a local pet charity, and brought the store’s gourmet homemade popcorn to various community organizations such as the local USO, senior center, Chamber of Commerce and the local police and fire departments.
“20 Acts Of Kindness was truly a team building exercise for all of us at the shop, but it also got the community excited and aware that this is an established part of the business,” Schneider said.
And while this particular program was a one-time event, Chef’s Shoppe is always thinking up ways to thank their neighbors in the community. For example, the Chef’s Shoppe provides knife sharpening services to all of its customers. However, they provide that service free to the police and fire department’s first responders.
“Most don’t realize that we offer this to them for free, so we decided to make it a point to go promote this to them,” she explained.
The staff made up cards to remind the first responders that this service was always available to them and brought the cards during a visit.
It is this spirit, explained Schneider, that is one of the reasons the business continues to grow. One example of that growth, she said, is the approximately 40,000 members in its customer rewards program. However, it’s still growing and, according to Schneider, the store receives anywhere from 250 to 400 new rewards club members each month.
“We get our employees heavily involved in growing this program. Asking each customer if they are a member or would like to be is a non-negotiable task with our staff. We advise employees to ask simple questions that require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, which has proven to be an effective strategy for us,” Schneider noted.
To read the full story, see the July/August 2017 issue of Gourmet Insider.