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The All-Star Difference

Welcome to the 2017 GOURMET INSIDER® All-Stars issue. This year we honor Laura and Stephen Havlek of Sign of the Bear Kitchenware & Tableware; Jennifer Baron of A Cook’s Companion; and Nancy and Scott Schneider of Chef’s Shoppe Gourmet Kitchen.

The Gourmet Insider All-Stars have many things in common, contributing to best practices shared by successful independent kitchenware retailers. As you find insights and methods in our All-Star coverage that validate such best practices, though, it might be more helpful to embrace the distinctions that define each All-Star’s unique business identity and achievement.

The pledge of retailing independence, after all, always has urged opposition to the type of cookie-cutter merchandising that has rendered retailers across many traditional channels so vulnerable to the mobile phone storefront.

You might not know, for example, the following about this year’s Gourmet Insider All-Stars:

• The Havleks of Sign of the Bear, as part of their retailer mentoring commitment, often send products out of their own stock for other retailers to try.

• Baron of A Cook’s Companion is a voracious product tester and makes a point to know every item in her store so she can pinpoint what she needs just by eyeballing the shelves.

• The Schneiders of Chef’s Shoppe Gourmet Kitchen have seasoned the store’s repeat customer business with a wide variety of custom-flavored popcorn.

This year’s All-Stars share the passion, knowledge and grit common among gourmet retailing entrepreneurs. That’s not, however, what makes each storeowner uniquely independent and uniquely successful.

There is much to glean from this channel’s most accomplished and enduring retailers. Some of these measures might very well amend an ever-evolving set of best practices used to fortify this channel for years to come. Adapting such practices to your own retail operation makes good business sense.

But it shouldn’t come at the expense of cultivating and exploiting the distinctions that define a store more decisively as an authentically independent, one-of-a-kind experience so craved by the most independent, one-of-a kind consumers we’ve ever encountered.

The cauldron that is today’s retail marketplace is pressuring traditional retailers to follow when it has never been more important to lead.

This year’s Gourmet Insider All-Stars lead by example. And what they share most in common is their desire to be unique.

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