A low country vacation destination on the shores of South Carolina, Pawleys Island is home to Pawleys Pantry (843/237-4784 or pawleyspantry.com), a 37-year-old store winning repeat customers for its excellent selection of gourmet kitchen gadgets and accessories. We spoke with owner Lonna Handley to get insight into running such a
Fancy Food & Culinary Products Magazine: What's
your favorite aspect about owning a specialty store?
Lonna Handley: Pawleys Pantry has been a kitchen store for 37 years, and I'm the fifth owner. That speaks volumes about our local buying friends. I love buying for the store and the challenge of keeping it fresh, different, fun, and functional. It's my 1,200 square-foot kitchen away from home, and we love that our customers feel so at home "in our kitchen."
FF: The growth in entertaining is fueling the need
for housewares, tabletop and kitchen gadgets. Has
Pawleys Pantry seen this?
LH: Yes, I believe we've been seeing it for some time. First, Pawleys Island is a destination area for summer beach vacations. When the economy took a hit, visitors who were fortunate enough to have beach vacations opted to dine in for family meals. We also have a large retirement community, and many residents are part of gourmet dine-around groups, bridge groups and more. Ramekins, soup spoons, lemon juicers, meat mallets, garlic tools, and serving utensils are just the tip of the iceberg for special requests we get from our local home chefs.
FF: Have you found that colorful products do well
with your customers?
LH: I love color, and Pawleys Pantry reflects that from the moment our customers open the door. Silicone products are such a big part of the kitchen now, and from the mini silicone colorful Tovolo tongs to the brightly colored Charles Viancin silicone lids, our customers are delighted with the choices of color. We easily offer more than 2,500 items, and I also find that people will coordinate across brands—colorful Joseph Joseph cutting boards pair well with simple scrubbers from Arcitec.
FF: Which housewares are selling best in your store?
LH: We focus on gadgets and offer as many as 3-4 options in something as simple as an apple corer. Customers like new. And customers like functional. We offer plenty of options in price as well as choices in both generic manufacturers and well-known brands. Chef'n's Herb Stripper, Janey Lynn's Shaggies and Shrubbies, Tovolo's BBQ Flip Tray and Lid Lifters, Island Bamboo's Paka Wood Utensils and Gefu USA's Spirelli were all among the strongest sellers last year.
FF: What are some new arrivals you're excited
LH: Butcher's Kitchen's Impressor and Marinate Tool is a great men's gift. Chef'n's Loose Leaf Kale and Greens Stripper as well as their Poptop's Popcorn Popper—they're new, functional, and already selling out. Capa Bunga wine stoppers—who doesn't need a really good wine stopper? And LeCadeaux's colorful melamine salad bowls. We're also bringing in a line by Good Paper, which includes heartfelt, fair trade and recycled cards from the kitchen made by women who have escaped sex trafficking. A personal favorite and one that allows us to give back.
FF: Pawleys Pantry is a part of Gourmet Catalog
Buying Group. How does this benefit specialty
stores like yours?
LH: We've been a member for several years. Gourmet Catalog is extremely beneficial to us in that they constantly strive to keep their retailers at the forefront of what is going on in our industry. I especially like that I can access each vendor to gain knowledge on top-selling items as well as communicate with other retailers through the Gourmet Catalog Facebook page.
FF: Do you find that local products do best in your
Kitchen Cupboard section?
LH: Ninety-five percent of the store focuses on gifts and gadgets for the kitchen. So with food selections, we strive to represent Pawleys Island and South Carolina. Local is definitely better for us because of the high volume of tourists. We offer Grey Ghost Cookies, a Charleston bakery with Pawleys Island recipes; Bulls Bay Saltworks from McClellanville, which are getting rave reviews and press; Olde Colony Bakery's Benne Wafers from Charleston; historic Carolina Gold Rice; and Charleston Teas grown on the only tea plantation in North America, just to name a few.
FF: What's so unique about your store that it gets
such rave reviews?
LH: I love this question! We're committed to offering our customers items that are not located anywhere else in town. Last year, our best seller was The Wine Clutch for women by Primeware. People asked why we were selling purses. When we showed them what it was, they bought 1-5 units. The Funny Apron Company and Loofah Art have been with the store since I started 13 years ago. And I can't forget the tools from days-gone-by that truly make us unique— ChopStir, Kwik-Kut Food Chopper, tomato holders, and assorted jar wrenches are just a few of the items customers are delighted to find. When they say "we knew you would have this," it just makes our day.
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