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Construction Marketplace 3 9 Thursday, February 21, 2019 Never Too Many Cooks at Someone's In The Kitchen By Greg Gonzales On the road to the Black Hills in South Dakota, just 40 minutes from Mt. Rushmore, one store seems to rise above the peaks even though it's nestled in a small valley off Interstate 90. Someone's In The Kitchen has served the communi- ty of Rapid City, South Dakota, and sur- rounding areas for 30 years, and a hus- band-wife duo, Co-Owners Ashley and Jade Berry, bought it from its longtime owners seven years ago. The store has thrived as a must- stop location for all, featuring kitchen essentials, gifts, gourmet foods, a coffee bar, cooking demos and classes, and own- ers who pay close attention to the shifting needs of their customers to keep everything current. Someone's In The Kitchen's latest chapter is something of a love story. The Berrys were from the same area, married and working, but they couldn't find enough time together "He was gone all but four days a month, and we started realizing we needed to do something dif- ferently because we just didn't see each other," Berry said. "I knew the store had been for sale for awhile, and we were both looking for a change to bring us closer together; I brought it up to him and asked if he would be interested in buying a kitchen store with me." That was in November 2011. By April 2012, after a harrowing crash- course in the retail holiday season, the Berrys were close friends with the previ- ous owners of the store they'd just acquired. "And I found out I was preg- nant the day before we closed on it!" Berry said. Seven years into the kitchenware business, the Berrys have mastered their craft and continue to grow with the com- munity. Coffee, cheese, cookware, cut- lery and gadgets ― especially avocado tools ― are big sellers at the store, but it also does well with quirky textiles like Blue Q and Primitives By Kathy, and also electrics. Berry says that's because Rapid City is small enough that it doesn't have a Macy's or Williams-Sonoma, and almost no other kitchenware stores less than two hours away, so they want to make sure their stock is sure to provide everything customers need. "They come in generally with an item in mind. If that's someone who's developed a relationship with us, they want our opinion on what the best one might be," Berry said. That means building trust for the store and the brands it sells. "They know we're going to stand behind the product no matter what," said Berry. "We try to merchandise in an exciting way that makes them feel like they're shopping in a boutique environment ― we're defi- nitely not small enough to where we can just put everything on a cute table, but we try to put things together in a way that makes sense and is easy to shop based on either just wandering for inspiration or looking for a specific category of item, so customers find what they need – or what they didn't know they were looking for." The store's setup keeps customers' eyes moving from one enticing item to the next, from the time they look through the window display at the front of the store to when they wander into the back. The front contains all the gourmet foods, with shiny olive oil and vine- gar displays g r e e t i n g customers at the door, along with c o o k w a r e , " w h i c h shows we're a kitchen store first and foremost," Berry said. It's all about guiding the customer to discover products without exhausting them, she said. Next to the front is their gourmet coffee bar, and also the register, across from which is cutlery. More toward the back is the demo kitchen and wine, along with cleaning supplies and gadgets. "In the back is where I would say the heart of the kitchen stuff is, so if someone's looking for a specific kitchen item, the center-back of the store is where we can take them to whichever depart- ment they're looking for and create a per- sonal shopping experience," said Berry. In addition to creative merchandis- ing, Someone's In The Kitchen cultivates trust with customers by regularly demo- ing its products. Back in September, the store held its Product Showcase, a two- day event where they transform the store into an entertaining venue of sorts and and invite select vendors to demo prod- ucts in-store. "We shut our coffee bar down and did wine from there, and then every vendor had an hors d'oeuvre," Berry said. "This year we did a raclette, which can be a little intimidating on the shelf, so they see it in action, they see meat, they see cheese, they see veggies ― all combined into one unit that they can envision at their house. That's the idea, to get people brainstorming how they're going to entertain for fall, or give gifts." However, on a smaller scale, this is something the Berrys make sure happens year-round, showcasing and demoing products every day. When a vendor comes in, the store makes the demo a two-hour event for the community to come meet the rep, and hear directly from the horse's mouth about how a product works. "When we're explaining to them that we trust a brand, it's a rein- forcement to them that we do our research and make sure that someone is responsible for making sure a product can be backed up all the way to the man- ufacturer," Berry said. Hearing the range of perspectives from retailer to brand can land sales. "That adds a level of trust and integrity to a small business because customers can see the companies we support and that we have personal relationships and part- nerships with the brands we represent," said Berry. The store also builds relationships in the community through its cooking class- es, keeping an open ear to the requests of customers. Classes are seasonal there, from January to June and from the end of August through the middle of November, with about three to five classes per week. Along with pasta, sauce and bread classes that are always in demand, the team adds classes to the calendar by talk- ing with customers to figure out what's popular, new and exciting. "We mix it up and try to do up-and-coming trends with tried-and-true cool things, or ethnic types of cooking that people are curious about," said Berry. "We have a hands-on spring roll class ― spring rolls are one of those fun foods that are simple, and, once you've done it a couple times, you can learn all the different variations." She added that one of her favorite parts about teaching customers to cook within their interests is that she gets to see them find a personal style as they learn, and then they can expand from there. "I think the best part of cooking classes is that once people learn the com- ponents of a good dish or a certain type of meal, they can play and figure out their own methods in a c o n f i d e n t way without having to feel like they're unin- formed," she said. W h i l e the cooking classes drive sales, Berry said she makes it a point to let chefs know they aren't being forced to sell a particular product and to make sure customers don't feel like they're hearing a thinly-veiled pitch. "It's kind of cool because they like to be shown new things, but they know it's not going to be a sales pitch every time they take a class," Berry said. "It's all about the information and bringing the commu- nity together, and people feel safe here to ask questions they might have had at home ― it's an open, friendly environ- ment where any question is a valid ques- tion." The team also keeps an open ear when it comes to inventory. With Ellsworth Air Force Base just outside of town, Someone's In The Kitchen has a lot of airmen asking about different kinds of cuisines from places they've visited around the world, along with locals who want help and supplies for making more familiar foods. "When people started wanting to roll their own sushi, they wanted all the tools to do that," Berry said. "We've got a little pasta area, stuff to make your own tortillas and sushi. A lot of people here around Christmas time like to make lefse, so we've got a whole department for lefse specifically. A lot of times, it's that type of customer who comes in and tells us they've tried some- thing and wants to be able to make it. It's fun to help those people out and discover together ― because it's not like we're experts in any one area, so we learn together." The classes at Someone's In The Kitchen not only bring more people into the store, but also make them fall in love with the experience of cooking. "We had one guy come in from the South ― and we have an amazing staff member here named Roberta, a sous chef in the major- ity of our cooking classes ― and he won the heart of Roberta. He started coming to lots and lots of cooking classes, and he'd always say, 'Ms. Roberta, Ms. Roberta, always looking forward to see- ing Ms. Roberta.' It was hilarious because even after he left he would mail us nice letters that were addressed to Ms. Roberta. She looked forward to hearing from him." That relationship even got the store more business. "He brought lots of his friends and coworkers here to share what he discovered, and they started being more serious about cooking, too," Berry said. "It's a nice escape to be able to get together and eat a fresh, new kind of food. I think the experience with those types of classes is a lot of fun when peo- ple are excited to learn. Sometimes it's not always about just the food, it's about the experience and how much fun the escape can be." And if customers can't find a partic- ular product they want, the team does its best to find it. For example, a local cabinetmaker start- ed crafting top-qual- ity cutting boards for the shop after finding himself dis- satisfied with boards available on the market, and now he does custom orders for wooden items for the store. "He's making a rolling pin right now for one of my special-order customers, so it's really great because you have a good relationship with people like that," Berry said. Her advice to retailers is that it's cru- cial to listen to your customers about what they want. "You have to make sure items fit for your store, not just listen to what companies say are bestsellers," she said. "Be open-minded and focused on customer service. That's a no-brainer for most people, but in the way shopping has evolved, people can find anything any- where ― they can shop on their phone in the car wash if they want, and we have to give them a reason to come here. Each item needs to have a purpose here." Berry also said family businesses vitalize a community, and that working with locals helps build even more local business ― and there's almost no better way to do that than around food. "The heart of the house is the kitchen," she said. "Food brings people together, so if you can generate conversation around food and the experience that creates, it adds more than just a store to your com- munity. It's healthy for people to get together and do things they love with people they enjoy being around."

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