For an independent gourmet kitchenware store, carrying local goods is a boon for business. A locally made product that a customer cannot find anywhere else can help an independent retailer stand out from the retail crowd, and can also open the door for long-standing vendor relationships as maker and retailer grow their businesses.
Such is the case for Providence, RI-based Stock Culinary Goods. The shop is located near Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and Jan Dane, owner of Stock Culinary Goods, has forged several relationships with many of the students from RISD, welcoming their locally made wares into her shop. These relationships have proven beneficial to the store’s bottom line, she said, as several of the goods have become hot sellers.
“We first started buying local goods from makers we were aware of from various craft fairs and the students and alumni at the Rhode Island School of Design,” she explained. “Generally the quality is amazingly good and we find the relationship mutually beneficial.”
However, Dane also noted that she is very selective on what she brings into the shop. For example, one of the store’s hot sellers from a RISD student is a handcrafted horseshoe crab bottle opener, and while quite representative of the seaside lifestyle in Providence, it was not something Dane was open to selling at first – she needed to be convinced it supported her brand.
“One of our all time favorite [RISD designers] is Matt Hall, who came in off the streets years ago with a cast bronze horseshoe crab shaped bottle opener. It feels dreamy in the hand and works like a charm every time, and is beautiful. But as much as I loved it, I said I couldn’t carry it because all of our products relate to food somehow and I thought, wrongly, that it was a paperweight,” she explained.
And while Dane said it broke her heart to say no, she had to stay true to the store’s mission. However, when Hall pointed out that it was a bottle opener, things took a turn. Dane said she welcomed the piece into the store, and the bottle opener has been a success ever since.
“People love this product and rightly so,” she commented.
Stories such as this are common in the gourmet retail industry, as storeowners, vigilant in keeping to their brand as well as what will sell with customers, need to have a strict policy on what they take a chance on. However, taking that chance can prove to be mutually benefit for both retailer and maker, and one that can open new doors of opportunity.
“As our recognition as a buyer of local goods has grown, we get more and more people who seek us out. It’s always so cool to see what people are producing out there! I stay very careful about pricing, and I will sell the heck out of their products because I really do believe in the mission of buying from people who live in our community, whose kids go to our schools, whose tax dollars pave our streets and such. It really has a very win-win feel to me,” she said.