“It’s a slow day on Main Street,” noted Angela Skogen, owner of Williston, ND-based Cooks On Main and 2018 GOURMET INSIDER All-Star®, as she walked outside.
If it was a slow day on Main Street, you wouldn’t know it by what was going on inside of the town’s only independent kitchenwares shop. Skogen and her husband, John, had a customer pop in to the store even before it opened, leaving with a set of cookware that John carried out for him.
“Door-to-door service,” he said as he carried the box out of the store, delivering it across the street and into the man’s car.
Soon after, it seemed that the floodgates had opened and the stream of customers coming in to refill their olive oil bottles and coffee canisters were constant. Browsers were also aplenty, grabbing some Pride of North Dakota food for the weekend ahead and weighing the purchase of two copper mugs instead of one, just in case someone would else would be joining the would-be buyer for Moscow mules.
The most impressive part of it all, though, was observing Skogen work. If she didn’t know exactly what the customer was coming in for (“Another refill on the lemon olive oil?” she asked a customer, even though she already knew the answer), she took the time to find out. All the while, treating everyone like they were part of her extended family, making suggestions, asking questions, getting personal and truly making each customer feel as if they were special to her.
Family, though, is the reason why Skogen is here in the first place. The former Target employee moved back to her hometown eight years ago to be closer to her friends and family. She combined the business sense she learned in corporate America with the passion she had for all things centered around the experience of food. The result was Cooks On Main.
“I’m so excited to own a store specifically like Cooks On Main to share my passion for entertaining and cooking for those that you love. What better thing to do than to do something that you love every single day,” she said.
The passion, she said, was sparked from a young age. Her mother was a home economics teacher and her father owned a specialty meat store and, she explained, that growing up, everything important happened around the family table. That inspired her to open the store as she was looking for her next step in life.
Stepping into Cooks On Main, however, one can infer that Skogen has a bit more corporate knowledge than some, but the passion she holds still shines through. The store recently underwent a renovation that nearly doubled its size and established itself as a “must-go” place in the community with the addition of its culinary center.
“The expansion has completely changed the whole dynamic in my store,” Skogen said. “It has really become a hub, a destination, an anchor for our downtown district,” she said. “It’s really allowed us to provide the customer service and the unique assortment — especially in the food industry — that our community was looking for.”
The store is set up neatly in departments so that things are easy for customers to locate and employees to inventory. She handles a lot of the buying herself, she told GOURMET INSIDER®, but is willing to bend when her staff feels strongly about something, she noted while citing a new line of candles she brought in.
“I was really wary of bringing in something that wasn’t strictly kitchenware, but I brought these candles in and they are selling really well. The girls won on that one,” she said with a grin.
But, it’s not just about inventory for Skogen. Although the store is stocked with a range of items that would suit any customer from a professional chef to novice home cook, it’s about what the people leave the store with — an experience. The first one to grab onions to demonstrate knife skills or offer a cup of coffee to customers (a Skogen blend that John mixed and shared with friends until they started asking for it in the store), Skogen makes it a point of providing a custom experience to each person who walks in her door, based on individual demands.
The employees, which include Skogen’s mother, father and husband in addition to a seasoned team, seem to feed off of Skogen’s energy, too, ensuring that each potential customer is given an experience that is authentically Cooks On Main.
For more about Angela Skogen and Cooks On Main, pick up the July/August 2018 edition of Gourmet Insider.