This year, Laurie Barnett and Mary O’Brien, owners of Claremont, CA-based Speckled Hens, a home and garden décor store, branched out into the world of gourmet retailing with the opening of The Hens’ Kitchen Shoppe.
“We had this yearning to do something else in the village that wasn’t what everybody else was doing. The Hens’ Kitchen Shoppe still falls into that home making, home décor, setting up house type of thing, and it seemed like a natural fit for us because it’s what we love to do,” said O’Brien.
The store focuses on tabletop, kitchenware and shelf stable foods, but the duo said it really aims at making entertaining easy for its customers and to help them see perfection in the imperfect.
“It’s not necessarily setting the table for a perfect dinner party. It’s about just getting together, unplugging your phone and having conversations and good food. That’s what we’re trying to convey here,“ O’Brien said.
The store features a unique design approach, showcasing a juxtaposition between the old and the new, that Barnett and O’Brien said offer a fresh shopping experience for their customers. New items are merchandised up front while the back of the store focuses on all things vintage, such as vintage kitchen and tabletop items merchandised on vintage furniture.
“[Our customers] have been really receptive to it, picking up a new item and then going in the back,” said O’Brien. “Sometimes antique stores can seem a little dark and dingy. I think the lightness and brightness of the shop makes them see it differently here, more like a treasure. It’s fun to watch them put things together.”
Merging the old with the new also gives their customers a new perspective on how to save money with items that may seem outdated, such as “Grandma’s china.”
“You don’t have to get rid of all your old stuff. Add something modern to it to freshen it up, and you don’t really have to spend a ton of money,” said Barnett.
She noted that the store has done well with its gray and white Burleigh dishes, an English brand, and all things European. They merchandise these more expensive dishes with complementary dishes that are less expensive. The shops’ small footprint, at around 1,200 square feet, also gives Barnett and O’Brien an opportunity to showcase how customers can utilize small spaces, a home purchasing trend that continues to boom.
“When your storage space is at a minimum, you need to have items that are multi-purpose,” explained O’Brien.
For example, the store’s white, ceramic dishes and Staub cast iron cookware selection offer customers a chance to utilize one item to cook, serve and display in.
“You’re baking in it, you’re serving in it and it’s a pretty piece on the counter. You can put a candle or plant or whatever in [the dishes]and use it as décor if you’ve no room in the cupboard to store it,” O’Brien said. “[Staub are] beautiful pieces as well as being functional, so they don’t need to be put away. They are beautiful on your stovetop all the time.”
Despite limited space, the duo said they are considering classes and other special events in an effort to further inspire and educate their customers to entertain at home.
“Everybody can entertain and take out cheese and crackers and salami and make it special and make people feel welcome. Even if it’s a class that helps spark that creativity, we’re brainstorming everyday, thinking of new things to do to show the public that they can do it too,” O’Brien said.