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High-End kitchen stores?


Octaveman
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William-Sonoma and Sur-la-Table get mentioned a lot whenever someone is looking for unique or high-quality items and it got me to thinking. Are these the only places that sell the good stuff? Is quality the draw or is the fact that they have pretty much anything you could want at these places? They carry the same knives that practically any other store carries so what makes these places so special? What are more examples of "high-end" stores where you live?

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William-Sonoma and Sur-la-Table get mentioned a lot whenever someone is looking for unique or high-quality items and it got me to thinking.  Are these the only places that sell the good stuff?  Is quality the draw or is the fact that they have pretty much anything you could want at these places?  They carry the same knives that practically any other store carries so what makes these places so special? What are more examples of "high-end" stores where you live?

Good questions. I tend to get frustrated with these places when I feel I'm overpaying. Having said that, my impression is that their prices are more competitive for higher-priced items (such as knives).

Other stores for high-quality goods: One that comes to mind is Crate and Barrel, though I think they may be even more expensive and have a more limited selection. (The selection at W-S seems to vary a lot across stores).

Beth, Bath, and Beyond and Linens and Things have a lot of overlap with W-S and Sur-la-Table, and tend to have good prices (especially if you use one of their ubiquitous coupons). In general, they don't have as much "higher end" stuff as W-S and SLT.

Restaurant supply stores are another good option. Though they tend to have products that appeal to restaurants and might not be considered "high end" (such all aluminum cookware), many do carry popular brands, higher-end brands. They also tend to have very knowledgeable sales people.

What's the draw? Besides differences in quality, I think people really like the shopping experience these stores offer, much like many who like shopping at Whole Foods over a Mega-Mart. It's not just the organics at WF, but it's a different experience, one that some prefer and others don't. I also think the sales staff at Sur La Table is more knowledgeable than what you'd find at most other kitchen stores.

Since I've been reading eGullet and other web forums, though, I hardly ever rely on advice from sales people at these stores anymore. I figure out what I want and then find the best price. When I do buy from Sur La Table or W-S, it's usually because they are the only store in town that has a relatively rare item in stock.

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No, both Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table are lifestyle stores where you are likely to know more about the product you are buying than the staff does. Places like Le Sanctuaire sell actual high-end products (pacojet, immersion circulators, non-Rachael Ray books, great spices, etc).

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No, both Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table are lifestyle stores where you are likely to know more about the product you are buying than the staff does.  Places like Le Sanctuaire sell actual high-end products (pacojet, immersion circulators, non-Rachael Ray books, great spices, etc).

For those who were as unfamiliar with Le Sanctuaire as I was, here are the details:

http://www.le-sanctuaire.com/

SANTA MONICA

2710 Main Street

Santa Monica, CA 90405

T: 310.581.8999

F: 310.581.8991

Hours: 7 days 12 - 6

SAN FRANCISCO

315 Sutter Street, 5th Floor

San Francisco, CA 94108

T: 415.986.4216

F: 415.986.4217

Hours: M-F 10:30 - 4:30, Sat 10:30 - 2:30

One thing I've learned from reading eGullet, Alton Brown's books, talking with people at restaurant supply stores, is that there are some products where "high end" is better. There are other products where you're probably better off buying a cheaper version from a restaurant supply store. Two examples: I've been well-served by $5 aluminum sheet pans and my $25 aluminum-teflon non-stick pan by Vollrath. (The teflon starts to come off after a few years, mitigating the value of a high-end pan with a stainless steel exterior.)

Edited by Darren72 (log)
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William-Sonoma and Sur-la-Table get mentioned a lot whenever someone is looking for unique or high-quality items and it got me to thinking.  Are these the only places that sell the good stuff?  Is quality the draw or is the fact that they have pretty much anything you could want at these places?  They carry the same knives that practically any other store carries so what makes these places so special? What are more examples of "high-end" stores where you live?

I walk through my local W-S every couple of months. Haven't spend a dime in there for at least the last 18 months. The last thing I remember purchasing was a little french folding knife that I could easily keep at work.

I was there this last Saturday. I was out shopping with my wife and daughter and went in to kill time. Because of another thread here I spent a few minutes eyeing the Global(?) and Shun knives to get more familiar with them. Left with all my money and that sad feeling that I must be poorer than I realize. Fortunately I have lived long enough to have a kitchen pretty well outfiited with what I want and need in large part from a spouse who knows how much I like getting new goodies for the kitchen as gifts. My 14 cup Cuisenart food processor did come from W-S because that's the only place my wife could find this large capacity model.

I also go into my favorite restautant supply store every 2 or 3 months. I'm much more likely to pick up stuff there - some for the Ren Faire kitchen I do my volunteer cooking in and some utility stuff just to make life a little easier at home (such as replacing my bamboo handled spider strainer with an all stainless steel model so I feel better about it going through the dishwasher). My wife fell in love with the real half-sheet baking pans for doing her holiday cookie baking marathon.

Just to show how low I can go - I buy my cutting boards at Wal-Mart and Target. They actually carry NSF-approved cutting boards there and I care about that since I am a bit nuts about cleaning and sanitizing.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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FULL DISCLOSURE ALERT :shock:

I own a high end kitchen store and totally agree with Melkor that these are lifestyle stores. And I think their prices are poor except their sales because they stick with manufacturer recommended pricing. On many items, we're all committed to the same price as per our purchasing agreements. Every major city, most medium sized communities and some small towns (like mine) get to have a mom and pop (or pop and pop) shop that can truly give focused service, knows their products, and can be patient with you as you learn. Plus, as I like to remind our customers, more of their money stays in town being returned to our charitable causes, versus going to who knows where corporate headquarters.

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  • 1 month later...

In Manhattan, we have a few good options, including Broadway Panhandler (I only mention them because they are down the street from me. Others may stand by Bridge Kitchenware or another store).

Actually, however, my favorite kitchen store is Fantes in Philadelphia. I have never been in person, but I love to order from their web site. I usually send my copper there to be re-tinned and I find their product selection to be much better for certain items (particularly copper) than Williams-Sonoma or Sur-la-Table (or many of my NYC options).

"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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In Manhattan, we have a few good options, including Broadway Panhandler (I only mention them because they are down the street from me.  Others may stand by Bridge Kitchenware or another store).

Actually, however, my favorite kitchen store is Fantes in Philadelphia.  I have never been in person, but I love to order from their web site.  I usually send my copper there to be re-tinned and I find their product selection to be much better for certain items (particularly copper) than Williams-Sonoma or Sur-la-Table (or many of my NYC options).

You should check Fante's out in person sometime. It is so the opposite from W-S and SLT! It's still a family run business in the Italian Market district in the same location it's always been in. No "life style" here. Everything is crowded out on racks and lining the walls, no high end fixtures to hold the goods, and the same old wooden floor that's always been there, ungraced with either high gloss or tile . Their good service comes not from 20-30-somethings but long time middle aged to elderly (depending on your pov) folks. Soon places like this won't exist.

I think they also have a couple satellite sites. Those might be more yuppied; I haven't seen them.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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Hi,

In NYC you have to add JB Prince, Bridge Kitcheware and Zabars to the list.

I don't consider W-S (Wellborn Senora's) to be in the same class as Sur La Table. They have about 80% fewer products to sell.

Tim

Edited by tim (log)
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"Are these the only places that sell the good stuff?"

nope! we have an assortmant of high end kitchen stores in the Seattle area...I find I can do much better price wise if I look online and/or try to buy from the company if possible, restaurant supply stores have great sales we have Bargreen Ellingson and others ...thrift stores are awesome for things that people think they wanted and then had no idea what to do with them! Browsing is all I do at places like Sur-La-Table

I adore cooking ...love buying wonderful great quality things to work with ..but flat out can not afford to buy things at premium prices ...I would rather put that money into the food itself to be honest then special tools to make it ....so I have to hunt just a little harder when I am yearning for a new piece of something for my kitchen that helps me really choose if I should buy it or not ...

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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The wooden Spoon

This is a small shop and your sales person is more than likely the proprietor. I really don't know how competitive they are. I believe they know what they are talking about though and if they didn't have what I needed they could order it.

They also have cooking classes here, $65 and you make a meal you would probably spend $65 for dining out. I like the idea of using high end equipment before I buy. As in how easy is this thing to clean and what not.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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I too enjoy going to restaurant supply stores.  I was looking for a chinois and at w-s it was 80+.  Went to my store in Chicago and got a sturdier one for 25.

Where's your Chicago store? Inquiring westsiders want to know!

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I love exploring locally-owned kitchen shops when I travel. My all-time favorite is Pryde's in Kansas City (recently discussed in an eG foodblog). Last weekend, we traveled to Hannibal MO and I happened upon a shop called Main St. Kitchens. It was just lovely - really well stocked, with prices that were spot-on with what I had seen for the same items at Amazon.com. I left the place $50 poorer... having purchased 2 corn zippers (one for a friend who is soon joining us in the cornfields of east central Illinois) and a Microplane footfile.

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WS and SLT are fine for what they offer, but you'll need to look deeper for serious pro cookware.

You'll be able to buy All-Clad and Viking, etc, there, sometimes on sale.

Ask your favorite restaurant where they buy their stuff, and spend 80% less there. :wub::laugh:

Carpe Carp: Seize that fish!

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I too enjoy going to restaurant supply stores.  I was looking for a chinois and at w-s it was 80+.  Went to my store in Chicago and got a sturdier one for 25.

Where's your Chicago store? Inquiring westsiders want to know!

Marmish,

Its south of Randolph street:

Herzog Store Fixture Co.

1034 W. Madison St.

312.666.2600

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ANOTHER DISCLOSURE ALERT :biggrin:

I am a Sur La Table manager and I am proud of my store and the training that my staff receives. I resent the above comments that we are nothing more than a "lifestyle" store, i.e Willams Sonoma, and that myself and my staff have little to no cooking/product knowledge. The above statements were nothing more than a blanket assumption.

I pride myself on the fact that my store sells a lot of items that are hard to find, cheaper than the competition (WS, BB&B, L-n-T) and the fact that I will go out of my way, sales be damned, to find a customer what he/she wants/needs.

I have a lot of pros that shop in my store...hell, I have a lot of ex-pros that work in my store. I will not hesitate to send a customer to a supply house, or look on the Fantes, J.B Prince or Le Sanctuaire sites to find what they need. I send customers all over the place, from hardware stores to flea markets to the mom and pop kitchen store to make sure they are happy because brother, that's the bottom line, making sure they leave my store with a smile on their face. I could sell a huge set of All-Clad for $1,200 and never see that customer again, but I'd rather have a customer that will happily keep coming back.

Do I detest the fact that we sell Rachael Ray books and knives? You betcher sweet ass I do. I have to live with that though and steer people to the "good stuff". Do I hate the fact that we don't carry MAC knives (I'm working on that) and we have stupid chickens all over the goddamn store? DING DING DING!

Don't give up on us yet. If you've had a bad experience at an SLT, let the folks up in Seattle know. If you want certain items to be carried, let'em know. Hell, let me know, I have a habit of getting what you want.

Gear nerd and hash slinger

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There are good people working at nearly every business. You say Williams-Sonoma, Bed Bath and Beyond, Linens and Things are the competition... that does seem to be accurate from what I've seen. Some (many) of us aren't looking for Linens and Things level cooking gear. Sur La Table has it's place - I've bought a number of things there, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a lifestyle store. You don't need to look farther than the giant barbecue display in every store to see that is the case.

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I visit Sur La Table whenever I go to Seattle--it's part of the Pike Place experience. I don't often buy anything expensive there (I'll allergic to wasting money!) but have found many small things I just can't get here. And sometimes larger ones too. If I feel that I really need it and can't get it for less, I'll definitely shop there. I've always found the people who work there to be knowledgeable about what they sell.

I've never bought anything at Williams-Sonoma, but it's fun to look.

I know a fair bit about cooking, and I can't stand to go to stores with snobbish sales people. If they can't be friendly, I can shop elsewhere.

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