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Utopia of utensils: Kitchen-lovers find paradise downtown

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Jennifer Hollinger, at left, and Bonni McTighe shop at The Kitchen Sync in Wenatchee.

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People who work with their hands know the importance of having the right tools to do the job. Just ask any woodworker, PUD lineman or firefighter.

It’s no different when it comes to buying quality tools for the kitchen.

Husbands often come into the store with their wives,” said Mary Woods, owner of The Kitchen Sync, 21 N. Wenatchee Ave. “They typically know that quality equipment makes work in their outbuilding easier, faster and safer. If they question the cost of quality kitchen equipment, I say, ‘If you’re buying a piece of equipment for your outbuilding, you want to get the best you can. The kitchen is our outbuilding.’ ”

A boutique kitchen supply store, The Kitchen Sync is a handsome and welcoming store with a wide variety of state-of-the-art kitchen products by various manufacturers of quality cookware, cutlery, barware, bakeware and gadgets. Like ingredients in a recipe, each product is carefully measured before it’s added to the store’s mix.

To keep current on what’s hot in the housewares supply business, Woods travels to kitchen trade shows in Seattle, Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta. The personable business owner’s mission is to find products to make you and your kitchen smile. But she’s not concerned about where to put new products in her store until she returns.

When I go to buy kitchen equipment, I don’t worry about finding space for it,” Woods said. When she returns from a buying excursion, she reaches for her book of life lessons and finds an analogy in her experience as a secretary.

When I was filing papers as a secretary, there would always be room between two sheets of paper for another,” Woods said.

This concept has worked well for Woods in her kitchen store. It’s organized in a way that makes it a welcoming and fun store to shop.

Betsy McDarment of Wenatchee appreciates shopping in a fun store.

Mary hosts fun and informative cooking demonstrations,” McDarment said. “We have enjoyed getting to know her because she is genuine. She cares about our questions and suggestions, and I like the help she and her staff give.”

The Kitchen Sync is McDarment’s go-to store for hard-to-find kitchen items.

I can make a quick stop for meringue powder or Royal icing, pastry bags and tips, or the latest cupcake cookbook — items which can be otherwise hard to find in the valley,” she said.

However, when Woods decided to dive into the roller-coaster life of a retail business owner, a kitchen supply store wasn’t her first choice. She originally considered opening a chain store selling spring-coil shoes. She did her research, and, after meeting with an accountant who asked the hard questions, she decided to go another direction.

When the Kitchen Addition closed its doors in Wenatchee in 2005, the timing was right for Woods.

For nine months, she researched the idea of opening a new kitchen store, she said. She worked closely with the Service Corps of Retired Executives, better known as SCORE, for free but priceless business advice.

The folks at SCORE make sure you are covering all the bases before you take the leap of business ownership,” Woods said. “They have the business experience and ask a lot of questions you really don’t think about. Then they work closely with you along the way to make sure you’re doing things right.”

With all squares filled, Woods opened The Kitchen Sync (thekitchensync.com) in September 2006. Today she has three part-time employees. She joined the Wenatchee Downtown Association and eventually became its president. She remains an active member of the organization.

Woods’ hands-on business ownership education has since included a large dose of reality.

I think for me and a lot of women, opening a new business is a very romantic endeavor,” she said. “I’ve learned it’s not always as romantic as you may have thought it would be. There’s a lot to owning a business that you don’t think of. You have to wear a lot of hats — buyer, stocker, marketer, cashier, bookkeeper and janitor. It’s a big undertaking, and you are married to it.”

When Woods isn’t working in her inviting kitchen store, she can be found outside enjoying the local environs of Central Washington while cross country skiing, riding her road bike, or taking on her favorite local trails with her mountain bike.

And after more than seven years of being her own boss, Woods is looking at some changes as she contemplates the future of the business.

My goal is to start working smarter and not so hard,” she said. “I want to reassess my advertising and increase my likes on Facebook. I want to try to have more after-hours events at the store. I also want to get a better handle on the bookkeeping aspect of the business.”

Woods, the wife of Wenatchee World Publisher Rufus Woods, looks forward to the immediate future of The Kitchen Sync, but is concerned about how it may be affected by circumstances outside of her control. One is the increase of Internet shopping.

I realize the advantages of shopping online,” Woods said. “I just like to remind my customers that local businesses like mine support local charities. I’m adamant about shopping locally and keeping my dollars in the community. That just makes life in our valley better for everyone.”

Greg and Leslie Peterson of Wenatchee share Woods’ views on the importance of keeping shopping dollars local.

Shopping local is a really important value of ours,” Leslie said. “It’s like coming home to say hi to old friends when we enter any of the stores downtown. The Kitchen Sync is a jewel in our valley with its care in providing genuine service and wonderful products. We both enjoy dropping in to see what Mary has, saying hi to her and coming home with something really special for our kitchen or cooking needs.”

Also of concern to Woods and the future of her business is adequate parking, a hot-button issue in downtown Wenatchee. Woods is opposed to the idea of making all downtown parking back-in.

I’ve had customers tell me they will stop shopping downtown if the city reverts to back-in parking,” Woods said. “Back-in parking doesn’t make much sense to me if it doesn’t actually provide more parking.”

Woods is also concerned about the direction some of the downtown properties are heading.

I’m concerned about how some property owners don’t appear to be as invested in the downtown as much as the business owners are,” she said. “This is our livelihood, so I think the investment in our business is more immediate and emotional.”

Despite these issues, Woods is high on downtown Wenatchee.

I love being in the downtown,” Woods said. “I love the feel of community and being able to walk out the door and say hi to my neighbors. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

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