After landing in the U.S. from Australia, Jimmy and Samantha Hines, along with her parents, Joanne and Terry Ryan, set to work on making the U.S. version of CookShop Plus, based in West Hartford, CT, a success.
Already seasoned retailers — the original CookShop Plus was established in 2002 in Bowral, New South Wales, Australia — the foursome took what they had learned down under and implemented that into their business.
Almost four years and an established customer base later, there was more that the owners wanted to do. However, space constraints dictated many of these things. Then, they had a conversation with their landlord that changed everything, said Jimmy Hines.
“We started talking to him about what we wanted to do with the store and he has some more properties. He told us that there was going to be a spot available around the corner and that they could definitely accommodate our needs,” he said.
Hines noted that while the store is equal to the same square-footage they currently have, the setup is better suited for the functions they need. One of these, he said, is the expansion of the store’s cooking class offerings.
“Right now, we top out at about 10 or 12 people for classes and we can’t really hold them in the middle of the day because you’re in the middle of a retail space. There are a lot of businesses in West Hartford and they ask about private events and team building. We would love to offer it to them, but we can’t right now because we don’t have the space. With the addition in the new store, we will be able to not only host classes during the day, but we will also be able to have more people, closer to 25,” he said.
And, explained Hines, he also hopes the expansion will also be more appealing to area chefs which, in turn, will expand the store’s cooking class program. “The new space will let us also have different styles of classes and will allow us to be able to hit a few more points of interest for people,” he said, noting that he is hoping to add several new ethnic cooking classes to the program as those cuisines are growing in the area.
Additionally, the store’s coffee bar, which has taken on a life of its own with its own clientele, will benefit from the new location as well. Hines explained that CookShop Plus has been working with a local coffee shop and roastery for several years, using the products to make the store’s coffee drinks as well as stocking them for customers. Now, he said, the roastery will use CookShop Plus as a satellite location, supplying its own baristas to run the bar. Not only will this help keep his employees on the store floor, said Hines, but he feels the benefits will run into the retail side as well.
“The knowledge they will be able to give to our customers about the coffee will really be great. They’re real coffee people, so that’s what they talk about, they’re passionate about it, and I feel like it will be a great addition to the business,” he said.
Hines also noted the coffee bar will have its own entrance that will flow into the retail store. This also has the potential for offering expanded hours, especially in the morning, for its regular customers.
“We have regulars that come in everyday and on the weekends, the coffee bar becomes quite an attraction. So, if they want to open earlier, there are partitions that go up so access to the store is blocked, but then we can just roll those away when we open,” he said.