THE COASTAL CUPBOARD, WHERE THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING COOKING…
By: Kathleen Curry
When a local business becomes an indelible part of its community pretty quickly, it can be hard to look back and think they’re only 7 years old; it can be even harder to think how you all got along before they arrived. This is the story of the Coastal Cupboard (CC), a kitchen supply store and cooking workshop in Belle Hall Shopping Center, off Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant. I would be sorely missing out if I didn’t check in with them every couple weeks just to see well-designed, hard to find gadgets and décor my kitchen or a loved one’s kitchen may be missing.
Brad Pitner, the current owner, says his parents moved here from out west about ten years ago. Back in Fort Collins, CO, there is a massive, 10,000 square foot cooking supply store called The Cupboard, founded by Carey Hewitt in 1972. The Cupboard is a major fixture in Fort Collins; the Pitners owned a clothing store across the street from it for years. Over time, they noticed that The Cupboard’s shoppers always wore a smile whether they were coming and going. They were having a blast, and so was the staff helping them out.
When the Pitners decided to retire from fashion retail and relocate to Mount Pleasant, they asked their old friend, if they could open a satellite Cupboard in their new hometown. And would he mentor them through its launch by advising them on suppliers, scheduling, budgets, etc.? He was all too happy to do so. ‘Meanwhile in Mount Pleasant, the neighborhoods were growing rapidly. North Charleston had a restaurant supply store, Downtown had Charleston Cooks! and California’s Williams-Sonoma, but there was no kitchen supply or craft and baking supply store East of the Cooper. Consequently, when CC opened its doors in the summer of 2005, they had a warm and resounding welcome. They found that selling cooking supplies and kitchenware is truly one of the most fun businesses you can be in. Brad says that if they ask a customer’s plans with a 99-cent cookie cutter, it tends to spark an excited conversation about the plans they have, what they’re baking, and what company is coming, and how fun it is all going to be. “I do want to thank the community for being so supportive of us. Our town is very good at supporting local and small, we feel it and our friend businesses feel it.” Before coming to Charleston, Pitner and his wife lived in Nashville, TN. They met while working in the music business, and they had considered opening a Cupboard in that city; Brad’s parents convinced him to move here and helm this store instead. It’s worked out very well. His sister Amy is also a part of the business; Brad notes she has a keen eye for a great product to carry at the store and is an amazing decorator when the holidays arrive.
Amy spotted Carolina Coasters at an outdoor market, bought one and suggested they would be a great brand for the store. Now those same coasters are on a display in the front entrance and it’s hard to keep them fully stocked because they’re such a hit. Other bestsellers include the Kebo, the locally created one-handed bottle opener by Rush Dixon; a garlic twist, which chops garlic cloves perfectly while avoiding knives, boards, and inevitably smelly hands; and the micro plane herb mill, like a pepper grinder, but it enables you to grind spices right into your dish fresh from their seed or pod. Indispensable and novel kitchen tools, like the garlic twist, and locally influenced products, like Charleston and beach themed tableware are big secrets to the original Cupboard store and Coastal Cupboards success. Other products, like the European chocolates that line the back of the register, and Spiegelau glassware in the front windows, appeal to gourmet tastes and serious beer and wine aficionados. Seasonal merchandise, which changes quarterly, is also one of a kind and a reason to celebrate: hand carved gourds for harvest season and Halloween in the fall; thousands of dollars in unique tree décor, kitchen towels, cutlery and tableware for year-end, winter holiday celebrations, and Easter features blown out and delicately hand-painted eggs from Austria alongside pastel tableware, Easter and spring themed cookie cutters, and embroidered kitchen towels. CC also has a full library of cookbooks by local and national food celeb-chefs, columnists, restaurateurs and bloggers; Grilling accessories; Cast iron pans and cookware; Charleston Chops cutting boards; Stonewall kitchen food and baking kits; Handy fridge magnet conversion and portion charts; Barefoot Contessa baking kits; adorable dutch oven magnets; Popsicle kits; unique appliances for coffee, cake pops, tea, and serving wine; a shelf wall full of cookie cutters; a cupcake accessory shelf; an extensive pie and cake pan selection; unique cooking and measuring spoons; and two rear walls full of silicone cooking tools and tools you probably didn’t know existed that make cooking even easier and enjoyable. The store is never the same place week after week—‘much like a bustling home kitchen, there’s always something fresh and new arriving that is worth checking out.
Brad and his family are always looking for new and exciting ways to entertain, educate and support the community via CC. In mid-June, they had their semi-annual charity knife sharpening event; for a $1 a knife, community members got their knives sharpened, met local vendors, participated in raffles, while raising a total of $4500 for Lowcountry Food Bank’s Backpack Buddies program. The next knife sharpening will be in early November. Next month is their massive sidewalk sale to make way for fall arrivals.
At the back of the store is a kitchen workshop; classes inside the store happen multiple times a week. Brad says their classes aren’t what most people expect. “People expect a hands-on experience, where they get messy and possibly eat afterward, but our format is demonstration style classes, with an interactive Q & A session happening all throughout. They're social, relaxing, and fun. It's making new friends, learning tips and tricks, and sampling delicious food. We have an in-house chef, Stephen Harman, who’s spectacular—he was a former chef at Huck’s Lowcountry Table, the Mustard Seed and Five Loaves.
That afternoon’s lunch class was a showcase of fresh summer tomato possibilities—three courses, including heirloom tomato salad with orange thyme vinaigrette, green tomato pie, and a glass of wine—what a deal for $20-$30. Brad told me, “Evening classes are dinner and a demonstration for $60, with wine included. It’s a great opportunity for everyone involved. You meet local chefs and make new friends. The chefs get to break outside of kitchen routines, show their skills, and give their restaurants some exposure. People who attend a class and meet a chef often want to check out their restaurant(s) in the near future.”
At thecoastalcupboard.com, readers will find upcoming class schedules, special event announcements, vendor recipes, blog posts about events and new gadgets in stock, and information about signing up for their wine club, creating a bridal registry, or renting the kitchen workshop for a private party. Otherwise the store is open 9-5 during the week and Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday. They are located on the main street into Belle Hall Shopping Center, across the street from Brixx Pizza and Harris Teeter.
You can be assured any time you stop, that there is always something cooking at the Coastal Cupboard. ‘So what are you making?
Kathleen Curry is a Lowcountry native an alumni of C of C, Carolina and Greenville Tech. In addition to contributing to Eat This! , Curry has a blog at bakingkookys.com; she is on twitter @BakingKookys and @ Currying_Favor.