Samantha Fagan opened Troy, NY-based Culinary Square with her mother, Carolyn, in 2016. The duo, who both used to be librarians, saw a need in the community for an independent housewares store as the city of Troy was going through a revitalization and the demographic of the community was changing.
“I grew up in Troy and when I moved back home, I saw how amazing the city was becoming. It was really going in a direction that was exciting. After being back for a few years, I realized that I wanted to become a part of what made Troy so great — small, local businesses,” said Fagan.
GOURMET INSIDER® recently spoke to Fagan about some of her favorite things, including how her favorite dish from childhood is strangely similar to her favorite dish to cook as an adult (they both involve melty cheese… although that may be where the similarities end) and how a decoration in her store led her to carry a completely new category.
Gourmet Insider: What’s your favorite dish to cook at home?
Samantha Fagan: Skinnytaste cheeseburger casserole. I’m obsessed with this recipe and it is awesome as leftovers, too.
GI: Who is your dream sous chef?
SF: Ken Oringer. I love all his spaces and the food he puts out.
GI: What’s been your biggest merchandising fail?
SF: I would say trying to sell food items. We’re surrounded by a really wonderful farmer’s markets and other small shops with grocery items, but it just hasn’t worked for us.
GI: What is something you felt was a long shot but turned out to be a success?
SF: I wasn’t sure how our cookbook book club would go, but it’s been great. Our clocks also started out as one clock we used to decorate, but we got asked about it so many times we started selling them and have expanded our inventory to include about 40 clocks.
GI: When I’m stressed out about holiday sales I…
SF: Spend time with family, watch holiday movies to remind myself that the holidays are about more than work or read a good book on the couch.
GI: What’s your favorite cookbook?
SF: It’s Skinnytaste: Fast & Slow by Gina Homolka
GI: What’s your favorite comfort food from childhood?
SF: Definitely Kraft macaroni and cheese.