Nearly a quarter century ago, retail veteran, Paul Fricke, saw a void in the Cincinnati retail marketplace. The southwestern Ohio city lacked a gourmet housewares store, and the longtime executive with Lazarus department store set out to change that.
Today, Cooks’Wares is a staple of The Queen City’s retail landscape. Fricke and his wife, Mary, opened their first store in 1992 and 10 years later, began meeting the needs of home chefs in the Dayton area with the opening of a second location in Springboro. “He loved retail and was really good at it,” Steve Fricke said of his father, Paul, who passed away in 2010. “At the time when we opened our first store, Cincinnati did not have a Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma, only department stores. He identified the niche [in the city]and we opened.”
The Fricke family legacy remains strong as Steve and his sister, Sharon, now run the two-store operation.
Shoppers visiting Cooks’Wares today will find a familiar mix of housewares products ranging of a wide selection of kitchen tools and gadgets to an assortment of high-end cookware and a sharp mix of cutlery presented in a large glass-enclosed case.
While Fricke admitted that his stores have never been known as a destination for any one product, he does feel the knowledge base his team has with housewares is what sets Cooks’Wares apart from big-box retailers. “The big thing for us is having [employees]who know their way around the kitchen and how to cook. “We can teach the product knowledge, but we can’t teach the passion,” Fricke said.
For more about Cooks’Wares, see the Jan/Feb issue of GOURMET INSIDER.