Member Highlight - Chris McDonald at Capital Kitchen

Mar 05 2024

Tell us a bit about Capital Kitchen and how you came to own the store. 


I had known Jess Turner, the former owner, for years when I heard that she was ready to move on. I have to admit I had been eying the shop for quite some time--I love anything food related, so much so that it became a running joke at Bear Pond Books, my previous gig, that food was all I ever talked about. While Bear Pond was a fantastic place to work for my roughly 20 year tenure there, I was ready for a project entirely my own. So I approached Jess about buying Capital Kitchen and she was immediately receptive. We started the process in summer of 2021 and she turned over the keys at the end of the following March. Both she and Northfield Saving Bank, from which we secured the loan, were an absolute dream to deal with.


How do you go about selecting your inventory and what are the big sellers at the store? Tell us about some of your more unique, perhaps not so easy to find items too. Any suggestions for popular cooking gifts?


The store's selling floor is less than 1000 square feet, and there are pros and cons to that. It's very hard for me to stay disciplined about ordering, because after a visit by a sales rep or attending a convention I tend to lose all self-control and I want to buy way more merchandise than I could ever stuff in here. On the other hand, we're small enough that I don't have to rely on a computerized inventory anywhere near the way I did at the bookstore. Over the past two years that I've owned the store I think I've gotten better at simply eyeballing things, and our small size makes it that much easier to stay on top of inventory. 


Aside from the Tramontina, Swiss Diamond and Cuisinart cookware that does really well, one of our biggest sellers is the beautiful Japanese tableware that we carry. It's very high quality and quite reasonably priced, and I don't know where else you can get it around here. Same with the Mason Cash mixing bowls that they use on the Great British Bake Off. And who knew toast tongs would be such a big seller? I sure didn't before I owned a kitchen store. 


Any changes planned in the coming year at Capital Kitchen?


--Nothing major at the moment, although I'll be attending a trade show in Chicago this year and that will almost certainly give me some ideas. Jess built a great business and my first couple of years have been mainly focused on not screwing it up. I'm a lot more confident now, but I expect any changes in the near term to be pretty incremental. That said, I do expect to be bringing in at least one more high-end line of cookware that is induction friendly. It seems like everyone is converting their kitchen range to induction these days.


What's special about being in the downtown and what do you like most about Montpelier?


Montpelier's downtown business community is incredibly supportive. When I first took over the store, I couldn't even count how many business owners came over to congratulate me and take me out for coffee. It was extremely touching. There's a spirit of camaraderie here that I have never experienced anywhere else, and with the flood that bond only grew stronger. And by the way, Montpelier Alive's response to the flood was nothing short of heroic. 


I could say the same about Montpelier in general being such a supportive community. People here are highly loyal to their downtown and have a strong "buy local" ethos. One of the things I love about work is seeing a Bear Pond or Buch Spieler bag in the hands of someone shopping at Capital Kitchen. It reminds me of how symbiotic a relationship our downtown businesses enjoy and need, both with each other and the community at large. Honestly, I can't imagine owning a business anywhere else. I love this town. 

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