In 2016, the locally headquartered Chefs Catalog, a retailer of high-performance kitchen tools, equipment and supplies, closed after 36 years in operation. The Denver Post reported a total of 180 jobs lost in Colorado and California combined.
A little more than a year after initial reports that the Target-owned company would be shut down, two former Chefs Catalog employees opened their own shop: The Cooks Marketplace.
Jon-Michael Horst once oversaw all of merchandising and inventory planning for Chefs Catalog, and Cortney Smith was merchandise manager and senior buyer. The two decided their skills, combined with the knowledge and relationships they had established with vendors, would create a solid foundation to build a new business.
“With what we do in the housewares industry, there were not a lot of jobs here in town,” Horst said. “It was going to involve us traveling or moving, and neither of us liked that idea. I started toying with starting an online company selling kitchen products because that’s what I know how to do. I started feeling out vendors for that concept, and the overwhelming response I got was, ‘Yes you should do it, but you need a store to qualify for an account.’ That’s when I brought Cortney into the mix and we were trying to decide what the store would look like and where it would be.”
When Horst and Smith searched for a storefront location, they found a space that had been one of Target’s Chefs stores and decided it was a perfect fit. Since the location had formerly been a Chefs store, Horst said it only needed a thorough cleaning.
Horst and Smith began work immediately and opened The Cooks Marketplace in early December 2016.
Every member of the staff at the marketplace was formerly employed at Chefs Catalog.
“It’s one of the things we’re most proud of: how knowledgeable our staff is because they have a long history too,” Smith said. “We’re about functional cooking products and really good quality. It doesn’t mean it has to be expensive, but if we sell you a $5 gadget of some kind, I want it to work, and I want it to last you a long time. We want people to be really satisfied with what they have and for it to be helpful.
“There are a lot of gourmet stores and web businesses that sell everything under the sun [for your kitchen], and we’ve decided that’s not who we want to be,” Horst added.
Since The Cooks Marketplace is still in its first year of operation, Horst and Smith’s primary goal is to focus on growing their customer base, building partnerships in the community, developing an e-commerce section of the website for customers to shop for their products easily online, adding a recipe database to their website and writing a cooking blog to be updated regularly.
“We don’t want to be a typical gourmet kitchen store. We really want to be a food hub,” Horst said. “We want people to come here and not be overwhelmed by products, but have a pleasant shopping experience and know when they come in here that we carry the best.”
The storefront features a full kitchen where demonstrations and classes are frequently taught by a rotation of chefs from throughout the community. Smith will also be focused on building more of a social media presence for the business, including expanding broadcasting of food demonstrations on Facebook Live, a tactic that has shown favorable viewership so far.
“The Chefs store that was here before did very well. We knew walking into this store that we were not going to do the level that the Chefs store had done. We knew it would take time to build,” Horst said. “I think, over the past few months, we’ve learned a lot. There’s definitely a large group of people in town that is happy we’re here. They like coming here and shopping. They know when they come in they are talking to experts.”
Horst and Smith said they will continue to pursue partnerships with organizations throughout the community to give back and continue to build their business to be one that supports the city and region.
“I don’t want to be another business to just make money,” Horst said. “I want us to be part of the community.”[su_box title=”The Cooks Marketplace” box_color=”#005ac3″]Established: 2016
Location: 4697 Centennial Blvd.
Contact: 719-960-4414; thecooksmarketplace.com [/su_box]