After a Beloved Store Closes, a Newcomer Steps Right upBrooklyn-born cookware shop Whisk opens on Atlantic Avenue, with some big shoes to fill
“I really am into making the customer happy. That’s premium.” This may sound like something that every good shop owner says. But Natasha Amott doesn’t just say it, she shows it. Amott is the owner of Whisk, the cookware store that opened this month at 197 Atlantic Ave.
While most new stores have to seek attention, Whisk comes in with weeks of anticipation. That’s because the new store has filled the space vacated by the cookware shop A Cook’s Companion, which had developed a loyal following after two decades on the avenue. When owner Jennifer Baron announced in February that she was ready to move on, its devotees were vocal in their mourning. “Some store closings in the community are sadder than others,” wrote Katia Kelly on her blog Pardon Me for Asking. “It will be missed tremendously.”
When Whisk moved in, Amott knew that she had some big shoes to fill. “I have a big list already of things from customers that have said ‘She used to carry this!’ and I’m trying so hard to get that in.”
The new Whisk is not the first Whisk. Amott opened the initial store in her growing business in Williamsburg in 2009. After years spent working in the nonprofit sector, focused on economic development and financial planning, Amott had decided that she wanted to combine her love for business management with another love: cooking. “My husband had left law to open up his own wine store and he was having so much fun being an entrepreneur, and we love cooking, so I was like, ‘Why don’t I just try opening up my own cook shop and see how it goes?”
Since it went well in Williamsburg, Amott opened a second store in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. Months ago she heard through the product-supply grapevine about another great opportunity with the imminent closing of the shop situated on the border of Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights. “They found out that she had made this decision, a lot of my big reps, and they contacted me. And I already knew Jen a bit from trade shows and that sort of stuff, so I got in touch with her and got the lowdown about how she was ready to move on to a new adventure and I decided to make a go for it,” she said.
While the new store will carry many of the products the old one did, customers can expect some new items. “I’ve picked up lines that I had never carried before because she had them here and they were very successful. Like our candles from Danica. Our knives, I would say, there’s a little bit of difference. I have some more Japanese knives than she carried.” Another new product? Ramen Bowls. At Amott’s Williamsburg store, there’s a huge demand for ramen bowls and since she already has a supplier, she’s trying them out at this one too.
Amott says her business model revolves around charging reasonable prices. “I care very much about maintaining a price point that I feel will bring in a high volume of people. I’m not a luxury store. I’m not looking for that one sale that’s really big. I’m looking for people that just make it part of their routine to come here,” Amott says.
Since opening her first store, one of the surprising things that Amott has learned about the cookware industry is how many products compete for one job. “People are very, understandably, attached to their products and how a certain product works. But it’s meant that when you have a 1,400-sq.-ft. store, it’s like, ‘Wow, you really have to pack in a lot because you need your five different versions of the apple corer.”
So far, the new shop has attracted a fairly even mix of customers seeking a particular thing and others who are just browsing. “An amazing number of people say ‘Oh I’m just going to look around for today and see what you have, this is so exciting,’ and the next thing you know they’re buying a few things. So that’s been really awesome.”
Will Whisk be judged a suitable replacement to its predecessor? “There’s different challenges depending on where you are. In this location, it remains to be seen since I’m so new,” she says. For now, her task is “winning over customers who were so loyal to A Cook’s Companion and having people feel like, ‘OK, it’s fine.’ I know a lot of people were so upset and I think that’s going to be my biggest challenge for now. Just having people come here and feel like it’s all good. Whisk has got everything that we need. But I think that’s just a matter of time.”