After more than a decade as an independent housewares retailer, Ben Salmon, who opened South Orange, NJ-based Kitchen a la Mode in 2008, hung up his apron strings. However, the accomplished gourmet housewares store owner built a strong foundation, one that caught the eye of fellow local business owner Cat Fisher — but as a customer.
“There were always so many unique products and a warm welcome every time you walked in the door,” Fisher said. “Those are the main things to love about Kitchen a la Mode.” Fisher joined the South Orange, NJ-based business community in 2017, opening Sadie’s, a woman’s clothing store.
Fisher studied fashion and then worked in the retail business for several years before opening up her own retail location. It was through her connection to the business community that she met Salmon, which would prove significant when he decided to sell Kitchen a la Mode after more than a decade in the industry. When she caught wind of Salmon’s decision, Fisher decided to explore the potential business transaction. Lauded by Salmon for her energy, passion, business smarts, easy going nature, retail instincts and organizational abilities, Fisher officially became the owner of the gourmet housewares store on October 1.
“My husband likes to joke that I bought him a store for our anniversary, which was in November. He is much more of the kitchen gadget enthusiast,” she said. But it wasn’t the industry that was the driving force behind taking over the shop, she told GOURMET INSIDER®. She explained that it was Salmon’s legacy that encouraged and inspired her to jump in with both feet.
“My interest came from the stability of the business and the brand Ben had successfully created during the last 10 years,” she said. Now at the helm, Fisher explained that Salmon’s commitment to the community is something that she continued with right away after realizing how important community support is. “One huge lesson I learned was community engagement and the importance of giving back to the community,” she said.
At Sadie’s, she is focused on giving back to the community. Often, picking a charity of the month and donating a percentage of the profits to that charity, so her customers can feel extra good about shopping locally. With that top of mind, she wasted no time bringing that philanthropic energy to Kitchen a la Mode, celebrating her new ownership of the store by donating 6% of sales to a PTA of the customer’s choice during a week in October. She has jumped in with both feet and has already started hosting events with other local businesses, like Rabble & Lion Coffee. She explained that her focus on the community is sharp, from both the consumer end and the business owner end. Fisher has been working as a member of her local Main Street organization to help improve the customer experience of shopping local, as well as planning new events and entertaining new ideas from local business owners to bring more shoppers to the area.
“I am currently a board member of the local Main Street organization focused on improving our downtown and increasing business for all the establishments. Being a part of that board gives me a great chance to enhance my involvement in the local community. I plan on increasing the experiences that we have in store and bringing my philanthropic focus to Kitchen a la Mode hosting fundraisers and other activities,” she said.
And now that she’s settled in, Fisher is gearing up to take the ship in her own direction with a nod to the path Salmon forged. She said that she’s kept the same staff, which has helped with her transition into the housewares industry and is looking to them to help take the store to the next level. She said that she and the Kitchen a la Mode staff will begin making major decisions about what goods will continue to make the store a success.
“[Early next year] we will focus on streamlining some of the categories and expanding on more of the margin builders. With all of the staff knowledge, we as a team we will make educated decisions on what to keep and what to expand,” she said.
She also said that she is planning to grow Kitchen a la Mode’s digital marketing initiatives. Fisher explained that she plans to dedicate more time to social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, and put strategic plans in place to market the store digitally, noting that it has been one of her keys to successful growth at Sadie’s.