When stepping off the street of downtown Sioux Falls, SD, and into Plum’s Cooking Company by Simply Perfect, one may feel as if they have been transported in a store in the meatpacking district of Manhattan instead of a Midwest city.
The store’s high windows and natural light are a complement to its combination modern rustic aesthetic, integrated seamlessly together. Atop black and white tile floors stand an array of distressed wooden tables that house merchandising displays that look as if they came straight out of a catalog. No doubt, the work of Penny Klinedinst’s design-oriented eye has been passed down to her staff. And, in the forefront of the store, a restaurant-style demonstration kitchen with sleek, stainless steel appliances and all the bells and whistles.
“This was built just like ones that chefs use in their commercial kitchens,” Klinedinst said about the area that houses the cooking school. “Our store manager [Tracy Hoem] works in the restaurant industry, too, and agreed it would be great to design it this way so that chefs would be comfortable when they teach here.”
The road to owning Plum’s Cooking Company started more than two decades ago, as Klinedinst entered the retail world with her hybrid boutique and design company, Simply Perfect, in downtown Sioux Falls in 1999. Her neighbor on the retail block was Plum’s Cooking Company, then owned by Caroline Peterson, who opened the store in 1986. The two became fast friends as well as allies in the independent retail world.
“I would very often have conversations with [Peterson] that I couldn’t have with the people in my store — personnel questions, challenges in business, things like that. That friendship grew deep. I understood her and she understood me. And we learned so much from each other. She loved this store; she was so passionate about it. She would host cooking classes and then be up washing the aprons at one in the morning,” said Klinedinst.
But then Peterson decided it was time to hang up her own apron. She told Klinedinst that she was going to shutter the store and move out of state, as she wanted to spend more time with her kids and their growing families. Klinedinst, in knowing what a hole Plum’s would leave in the community, and in her own heart, protested.
“I told her she couldn’t close the store. I had no business in housewares at all — none, actually — but I loved her and I knew business. She loved the store so much and it was her legacy,” she said.
So, Klinedinst did what any friend would do — she found a solution for Peterson, purchasing Plum’s Cooking Company in March 2016. She then got to work collaborating with the former owner about how to make the business better.
“There were a lot of things that [Peterson] wanted to do to the store, but she couldn’t, so with her help, we closed the store for several months and completely remodeled it. She had input in every decision, from expanding to where to put the new kitchen. It was great for her, she got to get what she wanted and had no problem spending my money,” said Klinedinst with a laugh.
And, during these renovations, the kitchen that sits front and center at Plum’s now was the thing that was given the most attention as Klinedinst began making her mark on the business.
“We knew that the strength was going to be the experience of our school. Without that, it’s just stuff. We needed people here that understood it, that could teach people, and encourage people and inspire them. This is where I believe Plum’s shines,” she said.
To read this story in its entirety, pick up the July/August 2019 issue of Gourmet Insider.