This holiday season, support your neighborhood entrepreneurs and shop local. November 30 is Small Business Saturday, giving you the opportunity to do just that. In NYC especially, there are a million local mom-and-pop shops, all with their own unique stories. To give you a taste, here is the story of just one of them.
For the past 23 years, Bowery Kitchen Supplies has been providing both professional chefs as well as home cooks with everything they need to be successful in the kitchen. Housed within Chelsea Market, Bowery Kitchen Supplies is in a uniquely coveted position for a kitchen supply store: not only does Chelsea Market get a lot of foot traffic, but it also happens to be home to the Food Network. This means that at any given time, the likes of Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray, Guy Fieri, or Emeril Lagasse could be spotted perusing the aisles. The everyday folks who frequent the market, coupled with the store’s inventory of kitchenware for the home, alongside the professional stuff, practically guarantees a thriving business. Indeed, their vast selection makes them one of New York’s most sought-out kitchen supply stores. But Bowery Kitchen Supplies hasn’t always had it easy. In fact, despite their desired location and vast inventory, only a few years ago, they almost went under.
Bowery Kitchen Supplies began in 1996 by Howard Nourieli with the help of his high school best friend, Robyn Coval. The two became 50/50 partners in business, as well as in life – they ended up getting married and having children. For nearly 20 years, their business thrived. Robyn had a good eye for store merchandising, a knack for ordering, and an easy way with employees. Howie had passion, especially for his vast inventory of knives. The trouble began when they got divorced. The two bickered over everything, hardly saw eye to eye on anything, and gave conflicting messages to their store managers and employees. One hand would put something here, and the other hand would move it over there. Howie over-ordered. The store was a mess, more like a disorganized and overcrowded flea market than a pleasing retail shop. Robyn lost her voice. By 2016, even though the store brought in over three million dollars in sales a year, Bowery Kitchen Supplies was in the red.
Enter Marcus Lemonis. Multi-million dollar entrepreneur and host of the popular show The Profit, Marcus is in the business of helping businesses. His goal is to keep companies open, retain and provide jobs, and to make money. His method is by buying out a portion of a business, becoming a partner, and doing a complete overhaul, restoring the company to its former glory, future success, or inherent profitability.
In 2016, Bowery Kitchen Supplies liquidated its entire inventory, selling everything in the store at a 40% discount. Then they closed for a two-week renovation. What customers didn’t know was that they were under the wing of Marcus Lomonis, and that the store would be the feature of an episode of The Profit. When the store reopened after the remodel, it was brand new. Inventory was significantly pared down and hand-selected. Displays were clear, bright, and aesthetically beautiful. The store was inviting, easy to navigate, funky yet homey, like a kitchen at home or on screen. They had a new POS system, so that inventory was never again a guess or a question, and that inventory was anchored by top names in the kitchen supply world, as well as rising stars and lesser-known but quality products. Marcus Lemonis paid $350,000 to become 33% partner, was 100% in charge when it came to managing the overhaul and helped mediate the differences between Robyn and Howie. Robyn regained her voice, and Howie relaxed in his tone and approach.
Since the renovation, Bowery Kitchen Supplies has been thriving. The glasswares were all hand-picked by Robyn and, anchored by Libbey, on beautiful display. There is an expanded chefware department featuring the top-name in kitchen apparel, Tilit. The store provides gift wrapping during the holidays, an in-house cafe where you can build your own sandwich, and live demos. The store’s knife collection has a simplified selection, there are fun gadgets and kitchen tools, select coffee and accessories, and a kids cooking section for tots who wish to cook with their parents. That last one was Robyn’s idea, and the department is thriving.
Since being on the show, Bowery Kitchen Supplies is doing exceptionally well. Robyn and Howie are staying on the same page and getting along with respect. Marcus is pleased with the entire renovation and process – although he did admit that it was one of the biggest challenges he’s had – and he has aspirations that the store will go nation-wide. The three partners could not be more pleased. And the store is everything a chef – whether professional or home – could want or need. This Small Business Saturday, it might be worth your while to give Bowery Kitchen Supplies a visit.
If you prefer someone else to do the cooking for you, why not go out – and up? Check out these NYC rooftop restaurants and bars for a fantastic dinner under the stars.