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Have Housewares, Will Travel

Jamie Butler, owner of The Butler’s Pantry, based in Escalon, CA, is no stranger to creating her own rules. Five years ago, she had left her job as a buyer for a housewares store in Oregon and moved to California.

She was settling in and focusing on her family when her brother came to her with an idea. He was building a truck out to be a mobile clothing store and he suggested that she do the same — but with housewares.

“We did a lot of entertaining at our house and everyone was asking us where our housewares came from. We don’t have a lot of kitchen stores around us,” she said.

So, she went ahead with the idea, collaborating with her brother and working on the truck on the weekends in order to get it right for housewares.

However, there was still a speed bump — she needed to stock it with the right mix of merchandise but was afraid the idea of a housewares store on wheels wouldn’t go over well with manufacturers.

“I thought that none of the brands would go for it, but I started calling,” Butler said. She started with Scanpan and Good Grips first, she said, and worked her way down the list. But after explaining the concept to the companies, most of them were on board, she said.

Soon after, The Butler’s Pantry was fully stocked and Butler began taking the truck to local farmer’s markets and educating people on the different types of brands she carried.

The truck — and Butler — became recognizable staples in the community but soon, she realized she was missing a component of the business more than she thought she would.

“I really started missing retail, so I started the search for a brick-and-mortar location,” she said, teaming up with another local business owner to share the space. “It worked out really well because [the other business]had half the shop and I had the other, but it really took off,” she said of the housewares side of the business. “There was a store that closed down the street, an old butcher shop, so I was able to move my business there.”

And if that wasn’t enough, Butler expanded her store in 2017 and started adding cooking classes. However, she told GOURMET INSIDER®, she hasn’t been able to rest on her laurels and the brand that was built with the truck.

Her area isn’t one that has heavy foot traffic, so she needs to give consumers a reason to visit The Butler’s Pantry. The first step to that was to use the knowledge she had gathered about her community when she first started venturing into the community with the mobile version of The Butler’s Pantry.

“When I started the truck, I realized that people my age were not cooking. They have these big, beautiful kitchens but they weren’t cooking — they didn’t even know the basics,” she said. “So, I kind of created the kitchen for a community. I wanted to bring the community together and just teach the basics.”

For the full story on The Butler’s Pantry, pick up your copy of the issue at the 2018 International Home + Housewares Show, reach into your mailbox or enjoy the March/April edition of Gourmet Insider digitally.

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