What’s cooking: A little more than a year after opening, downtown island shop The Kitchen Chick has whipped up an expansion, doubling in size. The expansion allows more room for merchandise, including some new lines, and for the popular cooking classes and demonstrations offered at the shop, known for gourmet-caliber kitchen wares and accessories.
With the expansion also comes a new slogan, “Take whisks in life.” Owner Alicia Cahill knows a little about whisks — and risks. In July last year she resigned her high-profile position as public information officer for the city of Galveston to open the shop, 528 23rd St. Cahill said she has striven to be authentic by launching a business she understands.
“I couldn’t have opened a clothing store or art gallery — I don’t have any expertise in that,” Cahill said. “I have a passion for cooking and hospitality and entertaining; It was a good fit for me.”
She also tapped into an unfilled niche. The Kitchen Chick doesn’t sell a lot of large appliances, but focuses on smaller, quality tools essential to cooks. In January, she added cooking classes with professional instructors. Before that, islanders had to make the trek to Houston for such instruction. The cooking classes — in Asian fusion, Italian, Mexican, baking and more — were a hit. Before the expansion, quarters were cozy and classes were offered after hours.
Now, The Kitchen Chick can offer more classes at different times of the day without having to close the store. Among the most popular kitchen items at the store are onion goggles, which protect eyes from onion vapors, and the Swiss Pull Chop, which makes quick work of fruits, vegetables and nuts and is good for puréeing, blending, mixing and chopping.
Cahill advises anyone opening a business to be involved.
“Be in the store every day and develop a rapport with clients and really know the market,” she said.
And expect to work hard, she said.
“Be prepared to work like you’ve never worked before,” Cahill said. “I’m the business owner and head janitor — you get to do it all.” (She does plan to eventually hire employees.)
Cahill credits a supportive family who understands the hours and work of a business owner and the customers who supported her from the start.
She advises new business owners to stop and celebrate growth. On Wednesday, she invited customers to an open house to commemorate the store expansion.
“Take time to celebrate all the milestones because it goes by really fast,” she said. “It doesn’t come around again; stop and enjoy it.” For information, call 409-497-2999.
Grocer gossip: Representatives for Randalls, which has stores in Galveston and League City, are mum about speculation the chain might be for sale.
“We do not comment on speculation or rumor,” spokeswoman Dawne Proffitt said.
Such rumors have circulated off and on since 1999, when Calif.-based Safeway Inc. paid $1.43 billion for Randalls, then a 116-store chain.
But all was fairly quiet until October, when Safeway, which operates 1,046 stores, including Randalls, said third-quarter earnings fell 58 percent and that it plans to check out of the Chicago market, where it operated 72 Dominick’s stores.
That move came after Safeway said in June it would sell its Canadian stores.
Safeway for the third quarter reported a profit of $65.8 million, or 27 cents a share, down from $157 million, or 66 cents a share, a year earlier, citing a software impairment charge, higher theft and lower property gains.
Robert Edwards, president and CEO of Safeway, at the time said the Chicago market was “fragmented and diverse, with independent competitors and an influx of new companies competing there.”
But the move to shed a chain in a tough market made observers wonder about Texas, where competition also is fierce and fragmented.
Online news source CultureMap Austin on Oct. 24 raised questions about whether Safeway would sell its 110 Randalls and Tom Thumb stores in Texas.
Grocery industry consultant David Livingston told CultureMap Austin he thought a sale of Safeway’s Randalls and Tom Thumb stores was “very likely” and would happen “very soon.”
Randalls had raised eyebrows in Houston earlier this year when it said it would shut down its South Voss location — in prime grocery store territory — because of “an expired lease and an unsuccessful effort to reach landlord agreement on a new store.” Specialty grocer Whole Foods quickly snapped up the space.
Randalls introduced the Flagship concept, upping the ante with in-store bakeries, delis, floral and coffee shops, pharmacies and more. But competitors such as H-E-B, Walmart, Target and dollar stores came along, changing the way we shop for groceries. Stay tuned.
Salad days: A concept praised for raising the salad bar to new heights is tentatively planning a January opening in Nassau Bay Town Square at the intersection of NASA Parkway and Saturn Lane. Owner/franchiser Berge Simonian came up with the Salata concept in 2003, when he noticed demand for salads climbed at a Houston downtown tunnel restaurant he had owned since 1994. After research, Simonian, along with business partner and brother-in-law Tony Kyoumjian, developed Salata signature dressings, sauces and soups and opened the first Salata in 2005. The Nassau Bay eatery will mark the 30th location for the franchise.
Diners, choosing from what owners describe as a “mind-boggling” array of ingredients, create their own salads and salad wraps. Don’t expect standard iceberg. Greens include romaine hearts, spring mix, spinach and a signature salad mix. There’s also varieties of chicken — pesto, chipotle, herb marinated and Asian barbecue — along with seafood selections.
Salata will join other eateries at Nassau Bay Town Square, including Mornings Kolaches, which already has opened, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which is under construction. When complete, Nassau Bay Town Square will consist of 600,000 square feet of office space, a 176-room Marriott Hotel (already open), a 313-unit multifamily project and 73,000 square feet of retail.