Cooking up Registry Options at Kitchen Collage
Owner: Teresa Adams-Tomka
Business: Kitchen Collage, Des Moines, Iowa
Location: 430 E Locust St., Des Moines, IA 50309
More consumers such as millennials, are shunning the suburbs, ditching the cars and opting instead for urban living and commuting via the bike path. Teresa Adams-Tomka, owner of Kitchen Collage, has witnessed this trend first hand in recent years, specifically in the East Village area of Des Moines, Iowa, where her store is located.
Kitchen Collage, which opened in 1999, moved to its current location in 2004. "When we opened in the East Village, there were four retail businesses. Now there are more than 60 owner-operated businesses," Adams-Tomka explains.
Nearby businesses include other independent retailers, farm-to-table restaurants, breweries and distilleries. Based on their success, "Some breweries outside of Des Moines are coming closer," she explains. In this "revitalized area full of independents, parking is difficult," she adds.
On weekends, depending what's going on the neighborhood, the store can be very busy, Adams-Tomka notes. "A lot of it is dictated by events (in the) surrounding neighborhood." And Kitchen Collage is organizing and hosting events as well. It has a demo kitchen in store, and Adams-Tomka teaches at the Des Moines Social Club's Culinary Loft. Located in a renovated Art Deco firehouse, the Des Moines Social Club is a non-profit arts and entertainment venue that strives to create "unprecedented community engagement" through the arts. Culinary Loft cooking classes can be one-offs or a series and vary in topics and skill levels.
During the summer months, Adams-Tomka teaches at cooking camps for children and teenagers. "We stay really busy," she says. "We try to be as involved as we can be in community."
Cookware and knives are popular gift registry items. When it comes to cookware, Kitchen Collage sells mostly open stock. "Most guests like to choose — different price points, and sets are not in each guest's price point," Adams-Tomka explains.
As far as materials, "We do love cast iron in this store. We have a lot to choose from — Le Creuset, Staub and Lodge."
The store, which is a member of Gourmet Catalog, also sells Chantal's induction cookware — "for its performance and its price point," says Adams-Tomka.
When interviewed by TGR, Adams-Tomka was considering expanding Kitchen Collage's cast iron cookware selection to include Finex, the Oregon-made cast iron.
"It is different from Lodge," she says. "It's a different product, but both are Made in USA."
In general, Kitchen Collage's customers are not seeking out Made in the USA items. "But if they have a choice, if they see difference in manufacturing process or if it is just a few dollars more, then it is their choice to buy that item," she explains.
With couples waiting longer to get married, "Many times they have combined households and have lots of things.
"If they have been cooking awhile, they have a cast iron pan or two. They're looking ... to upgrade their cookware."
In these urban spaces, where Kitchen Collage's customers live, storage is also an issue.
"If you're a millennial or in your 30s, chances are you don't have a large home. A 10-piece set, where would they put it?" she notes. Individual stockpots and fry pans are more likely items to be requested on a gift registry and purchased.
Another trend she's noticed with her clientele — "People are not matchy-matchy," she says. They have a nonstick skillet for eggs, stainless steel or cast iron fry pans — all from different manufacturers. (Editor's Note: mix-and-match remains strong in tabletop as well.)
The safety of nonstick is a concern for Kitchen Collage's clientele. "We are not experts on what's on those pans," Adams-Tomka says. "Over years, we've been told it is safe; a few years later, we were told that's not the case. So we espouse very little nonstick cooking."
Whether it is a stock pot or a frypan, "We talk through that selection and help them through their choices so that they can make the best selections. That's why we're are here. They're looking for conversation. And education.
"If you're don't have a lot of space, choose cookware wisely depending on how you cook," she adds.