New Kitchen Gallery location increases store’s space and visibility

The Kitchen Gallery, once nestled into the 1200 block of Williamson St., relocated this month. The more prominent space on King St. includes room for cooking classes, and was acquired with a 24-hour fundraising feat.

“We wanted to stay as close to the near east side as possible, but we needed more visibility,” store manager Stephanie Kessenich said. “Being this close to the farmer’s market is a big plus."

Beth Crawford, long time near east side resident, came to the new King St. location on Saturday, looking for Middle Eastern cookie molds. She was sad to see the store move, but realized the more visible location and larger space was necessary.

“The new store is beautiful,” she said.

Kate Bondurant and Mike Darlington also came to browse the Kitchen Gallery on Saturday. Darlington, a three-year resident of Madison, thought the Kitchen Gallery on King St. was a brand new store.

“We like it a lot,” Bondurant said. “Our wish list is pretty long.”

Kitchen Gallery classes are going to be hands-on and demonstration-filled, Kessenich said. Classes in the new space will begin next year, after construction of the kitchen space is complete.

A long time realtor, owner Tom Christensen purchased the store in 2007, at its original Williamson St. location.  The store’s revenue grew by 24 percent each year for the first three years, and then held even for the fourth.

Even with such consistent growth, however, the Kitchen Gallery needed higher profit to maintain itself.

“I still haven’t taken any money home,” he said. “It pays everybody else but it didn’t have the potential to grow enough to take care of me too, or pay back all the money I put into it."

When 107 King St. became available, the Kitchen Gallery had already been looking to expand for more than six months.

“On a Friday we learned that this space was available. On a Monday we saw it, I told the landlord we’d like to take it,” Christensen said. He had two weeks to get the down payment of $60,000 together. But then, on that Wednesday, the landlord informed him the interest of other potential buyers pushed the deadline up to Friday, two days away.

“So I sent out an email to everybody I knew. Said look, loan me $1,000-5,000, I’ll give you 5% interest on a two year note and you can have 15% off anything in the store until I pay the note off,” Christensen said. “In 24 hours I had $48,000 come in, and by the time it was done I had $63,000, just from individuals that wanted to support.”

After closing the Williamston St. location on October 9, the move, made almost as quickly as the fundraising push, took one week. The new store is 11 blocks from the original location. 

The Kitchen Gallery website is gearing up for online registration, though Kessenich refrained from giving an expected start date for the classes. She estimates participant numbers will hover around 16-18 people. Learning levels will range from child friendly, to six-week intensive courses.

“Some classes will feature local chefs, and we will cover oddities from foraging to dietary specialties like gluten intolerance,” she said.