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Gretchen Gill Woods, The Kitchen Loft

Kerrytown Gets a New Kitchen Store

And Found finds its third incarnation

by Micheline Maynard

From the December, 2021 issue

Cooks have a haven again in the Kerrytown Market & Shops. In late October, retailing veteran Gretchen Gill Woods opened The Kitchen Loft in the second-floor space previously occupied by Spun, which moved downstairs last summer into part of Hollander's old spot.

Many locals have fond memories of Kitchen Port, an original Kerrytown tenant that was a wonderland of pots, pans, and tea towels.

After Kitchen Port left (it moved to Scio Township in 2005 and closed in 2009), Tom and Cindy Hollander experimented with selling kitchenware (I own a Staub Dutch oven purchased there) before returning to their original focus: decorative papers and bookbinding supplies. They closed their physical store last year, but are still in business online.

Now comes The Kitchen Loft, which Woods has stocked with a variety of goods aimed at everyone from beginners to professionals.

"I've got things for that entry-level person all the way up to someone looking for a really nice knife," she says.

Woods has a lengthy Ann Arbor retailing history, including two years as the store manager for Spice & Tea Merchants across the corridor in Kerrytown, as well as time at JCPenney and Home Depot.

"I was at a point in life where I wanted to start a business," she says. Having worked in Kerrytown, she knew the clientele, and people often told her how much they missed Kitchen Port.

"I realized there was definitely a niche to be filled here," she says. Woods brainstormed her plans with Mary Cambruzzi, the owner of Found gallery, which itself has just undergone a transformation (see below).

As interest in cooking and baking spiked during the pandemic, Woods decided the time was right. She actually hoped to find a bigger space, since this one is too small to offer cooking classes. There is room for product demonstrations, though-she is especially interested in helping college students and young professionals learn to buy and use kitchen tools.

One focus is microwave gadgets, and another

...continued below...


is on items made from recycled materials. She's striving to sell things made locally or at least in the U.S., although a good portion of her inventory comes from overseas.

Another focus is entertaining. Woods is selling hot sauce, honey, and drink mixes, and she expects to have a full line of craft cocktail ingredients-because not only are people cooking more at home, "they've definitely brought the bar to home," she says.

Woods sees her main competition as chains like Macy's, Home Goods, and T.J. Maxx. In order to keep prices reasonable, she's part of a buyers' group that supplies individual businesses. But she believes her competitive edge over the big stores will be customer service. "We'll work with you one-on-one, and we're going to put items in a gift bag" if a customer wants a purchase wrapped.

More than that, she says, "I want to be an asset to the community. I want it to be fun. I want it to be a great place to work. More locations are not on my scope right now. I just want it to be the best place it can be."

The Kitchen Loft, 407 N. Fifth Ave., (734) 780-7087. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.- 6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (hours may change during holiday events). the-kitchen-loft.myshopify.com

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Mary Cambruzzi opened Found on the second floor of Kerrytown in 2005, where The Kitchen Loft is now-she calls it her gallery's "incubator space." (Spun incubated there, too.)

Her original concept was to gather items that she discovered at estate sales, art made from recycled materials, and handmade goods.

Ten years later-with her gift shop bursting with items like pillows, jewelry, and paper goods-she moved to a 3,000-square-foot space in the center's Luick Building.

In late October, Cambruzzi added another 1,700 square feet, expanding into the courtyard spot briefly occupied by Title Nine, a national chain of women's athletic wear and clothing (Observer, February).

Her nearly 5,000 square feet of combined space makes Found one of Ann Arbor's largest home decor shops, aside from big-box stores.

Although she signed the lease in June, it took Cambruzzi several months to decide how to design the extra space. She took out a wall between the two stores and moved her office to the back.

In the past, Cambruzzi kept track of her inventory manually, but with the expansion, she jokes, Found "moved into the last century:" they created barcoded labels for all 35,000 items in inventory, some of them for things as small as stickers (don't miss the two- handed map of Michigan, which is sure to be a hit).

In contrast to the more crowded main section of Found, which this month is filled with holiday decor, notebooks, aprons, and glassware, the expanded floor space looks more like someone's tastefully decorated living room.

"I didn't feel the need to fill every inch of space at the beginning," Cambruzzi says.

In November, a pair of green velvet couches sat facing each other, while bookshelves nearby held carefully spaced ceramic pieces, and tables held the most-requested addition: greeting cards.

Found didn't carry them in the past because Hollander's did, but her customers encouraged her to fill the void when they closed.

She was especially happy to see visitors return on football Saturdays and during U-M's November parents' weekend. And unlike many small businesses, she's been blessed with a stable staff.

Found has five full-time staff members, plus another half-dozen part-timers, many of whom have other full-time jobs but like to help out nights and weekends.

"It's been easier for retail to come back" than restaurants and other service businesses, Cambruzzi says. "Stores that have a point of view and unique merchandise and good customer service worked hard to survive through the pandemic. And now, we're on a footing where we're OK."

Found, 415 N. Fifth Ave., (734) 302-3060. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. foundgallery.com     (end of article)

[Originally published in December, 2021.]

 


 
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