When Mindy Bergstrom’s husband was growing up in Ames, IA, Cooks’ Emporium was a store that he would visit frequently with his mother. Back then, it was owned by Margaret Junkhan, who opened the store in 1979 after searching for a good quality quiche pan. When she didn’t find one, she took matters into her own hands.
“It was really amazing what Marg did in 1979. Women entrepreneurs weren’t really a big thing and she ended up starting a retail store,” Bergstrom said. Years later, it was Bergstom’s casual mention of purchasing the store on a trip to Ames that started the chain of events to ownership.
“I said to my husband, ‘If this store ever goes up for sale, we should buy it.’ Little did I know that after I said that, he contacted the former owner at Cooks’ and asked if she was ready to retire. She was 85 at the time,” she said.
Bergstrom said that owning an independent gourmet housewares store wasn’t on her mind at that point in her life. She had 12 years of project management under her belt and was living in Minneapolis, but the draw of entrepreneurship was stronger than her desire to continue climbing the corporate ladder.
“I finally got to be where I wanted with my career. I was director of project management and was helping with company operations. But two weeks after my husband spoke with [Junkhan], we drove down to Ames and met with her,” she said.
That day sealed her fate. Bergstrom and her husband worked out a plan with Junkhan that would allow her to finish her last full year while transitioning Bergstrom into the business. Bergstrom walked into Cooks’ Emporium as the official owner in February 2017 and got to work remodeling the store, revamping marketing efforts and re-evaluating product assortment.
“I knew I wanted to remodel right away, so I worked with a local company to get the process moving. I drew the floor plan, figured out the aesthetics and colors and really planned down to the product. I planned out where everything would live and how I would organize the store once it was fully stocked,” she said.
When she realized she wasn’t going to have enough room to do what she wanted with the space allotted in Cooks’ Emporium, she decided to take yet another chance. Bergstrom opened another store, named Nook + Nest, that houses linens, home entertaining items and home décor.
“Because of how I planned out Cooks’ Emporium, there wasn’t a lot of extra room for linens. So, a lot of the placements and napkins are at Nook + Nest, along with more entertaining pieces,” she said.
For the full story, check out the November/December issue of GOURMET INSIDER®.