Retail Profile: Now You’re Cooking

Retailer: Now You’re Cooking
Owners: Jerry Martins, Barbara Lynn
Location: Ithaca, N.Y.
Founded: 1986
Square footage: 1,500 net sq ft

When is a kitchen sieve not a kitchen sieve? When it an aphid separator, says Jerry Martins, who should know.

As one of the owners of Now You’re Cooking, in the college town of Ithaca, N.Y., Martins and his business partner Barbara Lynn count scientists and professors from nearby Cornell University as customers, along with the usual foodies seen by most kitchenware shops. And sometimes requests from the academic crowd can get, well, “a little weird,” Martins says.


Jerry Martins stocks a wide range of products in his Ithaca, N.Y. store.

One customer, a genetics researcher, bought a high-end Italian-made sieve and showed it to visiting scientists from China. She billed the sieve as a tool she had developed to separate adult aphids from baby aphids, and her visitors were impressed. Aphids are widely used in genetics research and separating adults from babies is a chore. The sieve worked perfectly for this application.

The researcher then bartered her “special-aphid-separating tool” for some proprietary Chinese aphid research and snuck back down to Now You’re Cooking to buy boxes of the sieves to deliver to her visitors. Martins helped her by “scraping off all the price tags and any other labeling identifying the sieve as a kitchen tool,” he says. “She ran right back to the lab from the store, boxes of sieves in hand.”

And it gets weirder when it comes to small electric appliances. “We get people coming down from the science labs asking us, ‘Will this food processor chop up cockroaches?’,” Martins says.

His answer? “I don’t really know. It’s not in the manual, I mean those companies don’t test for that.” (His customers reported back that, yes, they do work.)

Though located in a scenic pedestrian mall, smack between Cornell University and Ithaca College, Now You’re Cooking’s customers are professors, town residents and people who are visiting the area, rather than undergraduates, Martins says, even though the store is surrounded by college kids.

“The only student customers we get are international students because they can’t find the cooking vessels they need for their home-country dishes in Walmart,” he says, citing paella pans as an example.


Now You’re Cooking caters to scientists as well as foodies.

And most customers are actually interested in cooking, not aphid sorting. Thanks to the requests of the widely travelled members of the academic community, the two store owners have focused on international cookware over their past 30 years of operation. Martins notes that includes bringing in espresso machines before the small appliance became ubiquitous.

“Espresso makers were a request from the Cornell professors who would go abroad on sabbaticals and come back talking about the fabulous coffee they had had in Italy,” he says. The number of foreign researchers and visitors arriving in Ithaca to spend time teaching at Cornell has also helped boost support for a wider range of products in the store, he adds.

Martins also says catering to the academic crowd makes customer service for his store all that more important, as they must have the knowledge to explain the products in depth to their inquisitive customers.

“That a product works and is pretty isn’t enough to cut it here,” he says. “People shopping here are always worried about what is in the product: whether it is BPA free; whether it is renewable; where is it made; what is it made out of. Our customers read a lot and want to know everything. It keeps us on our toes.”

Martins credits his manufacturer’s reps for helping keep his team up to speed on the basic product knowledge: “My reps come well prepared, but often we have to call the companies for more information.”

And it’s not just international cookware on the menu. His sales team needs to explain how to use more basic American cookware to those customers here from other lands who want to make traditional American meals. To that end, Martins employs several women over 70, including one who at 86 shines as a beacon to cooking novices. “Everyone looks at her and thinks she knows how to cook,” Martins says.

That employee, he says, has other key retail experience, lost on the younger set. “She knows how to make change,” Martins says. “The Cornell kids I hire to work here haven’t had the experience of making change.”

The bottom line though, is good old-fashioned customer service. “We spend a lot of time talking to our shoppers about what they really need. I’ve talked people out of buying a pasta machine because it was wrong for them,” he says. “You may not make the sale that day, but if you tell people the truth, they come back because they trust us. It is just good business.”

Martins remembers a customer from China who was a graduate student at Cornell and wanted recreate a many-tiered layer cake that she had been served at the home of one of her professors. While a brilliant researcher, layer cakes were outside her comfort zone.

“She came into the store looking to buy a stockpot thinking that was the tool to make a ‘big volume cake,’ along with a barbecue skewer, which she thought would work as a cake tester for that cake since it was long enough,” he says.

That customer was intercepted by Martins, who then explained that layer cakes were actually baked in layers, directing her to use several pans rather than one large stock pot.  Years later she came back into the store, found him and said, “Remember me? You taught me to cook.”


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Global Retail Intelligence – October 2016

October 1 – D Mart, India
The Business Standard (Mumbai) reports that India supermarket operator, D Mart “is looking to add over 60 per cent more space in the next three years. The chain, the third largest retailer after Future Group and Reliance Retail, has 3.4 million square feet of retail space now and is looking to add 2.1million sq. ft. by FY20.” More is available from The Business Standard.

October 3 – Tesco, UK
Reuters says today that Tesco, Britain’s largest retailer, “reported strong first half results and set higher profitability targets that showed confidence that it could maintain the momentum. Hopes are rising among investors that Britain’s established supermarkets can succeed in fighting back against German discounters Aldi and Lidl, who have rapidly built up market share in recent years.”  More information is available from Reuters.

October 4 –Indonesian Online Business
Bloomberg says that Indonesia has consulted Jack Ma of Alibaba for advice on how to grow its online retail business. Calling it the world’s number 6 emerging market, Bloomberg adds that “Indonesia has an e-commerce market that McKinsey & Co. says can be one of the fastest-growing in the world, part of a digital economy adding $150 billion a year to gross domestic product by 2025.” More information and video are available on Bloomberg.

October 10 – Chinese Economic Growth
The Wall Street Journal reported today that Chinese consumers may be under debt stress and that may be depressing China’s economic growth. “A rough measure of consumer indebtedness, household borrowing as a percentage of household bank deposits is now above 50%, double what it was in 2009.” Additional analysis is available from The Wall Street Journal.

October 12 – Sainsbury & Argos, UK
Bloomberg reports that “Sainsbury will open Argos branches or collection points inside almost all of its stores.” Sainsbury operates 601 supermarkets and 782 convenience stores to complement the 739 Argos current outlets. More information is available from Bloomberg.

October 12 – Tesco, UK
The BBC reports that Tesco has removed several key consumer brands as Unilever attempted a price increase due to weakness of the Pound. For additional details, see the BBC website.

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Book Your Hotel for the Show at The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel, on the Magnificent Mile

Book now and enjoy these additional incentives:

  • Named one of the Top 10 Hotels in Chicago by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2016
  • Special rates for attendees of the 2017 International Home + Housewares Show, starting at $195
  • NEW: Complimentary wireless internet in guestrooms
  • NEW: Enjoy two ways to earn Double SPG Starpoints on your stay:
    1. – For reservations made before January 31, 2017, receive Double SPG Starpoints on your entire stay
    2. – For reservations made before February 28, 2017, receive Double SPG Starpoints on pre- and post-night stays
  • NEW: Guests will receive one Gwen wooden nickel – redeemable for one cocktail – upon check-in. The tradition of wooden nickels hearkens back to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, when these tokens were initially distributed as souvenirs and later accepted by merchants as a type of currency, commonly redeemable for goods, such as drinks.

Book Your Discounted Room at The Gwen!

Contemporary with an artistic soul, The Gwen, a member of Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ prestigious Luxury Collection portfolio, is thrilled to welcome attendees of the International Home + Housewares Show this upcoming March and have them experience our new guestrooms.

Thanks to The Gwen’s prime location soaring above the Magnificent Mile, guests can embrace a true sense of place as they explore and discover hundreds of shops, restaurants, and attractions that are all within walking distance. The beauty of the Windy City can even be appreciated without leaving the 311-room hotel, as it offers landmark views from many of its guestrooms and signature Terrace Suites.

Design reigns supreme at The Gwen, which debuted newly refreshed public areas in May, displaying the work of the renowned Chicago-based Simeone Deary Design Group. The team re-invigorated the space, located in the historic McGraw-Hill Building on North Michigan Avenue, to celebrate the energy and glamour of Chicago in the 1930s, with a modern twist.

This heritage pays homage to the hotel’s namesake, Gwen Lux, a young sculptress who, in 1929, created the zodiac-inspired relief panels that adorn the exterior of the building, many of which are still in place today. Embracing Lux’s body of work, artistic spirit, and the Art Deco-era in which she thrived, the hotel proudly carries her legacy throughout. From recreations of her famed panels in the hotel’s lower lobby, to images of the artist herself creatively weaved into the décor, The Gwen amplifies the indelible mark Lux left on Chicago.

As part of the property enhancements unveiled in 2016, The Gwen also debuted two exciting dining experiences: Circa Restaurant & Lounge, which highlights the rich diversity of American cuisine, and Upstairs at The Gwen, a rooftop terrace that serves creative sips and delectable small plates with a panoramic view of downtown Chicago. Both outlets celebrate the art of craft cocktails, giving a special nod to Prohibition-era libations, such as the Boulevardier and the Gin Rickey.

Explore The Gwen through the snapshots below:



Forecasting Currency Fluctuations in Uncertain Times

In their October 2016 Currency Outlook report, Tempus, an exchange rate and global payments company, indicates that the globe is going through a period of readjustment as markets find direction in the midst of downside risks to overall economic growth and limits to the scope of intervention by central banks.  The two-page report reviews recent currency changes and previews events that may have an impact on future exchange rates.

IBC Members can download the Currency Outlook from the members-only section of the IBC website under the Special Reports section.  IBC membership is free for all regular IHA members – to learn more and to join, visit the IBC membership information page.


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2016 CHESS Highlights -The Future of Omnichannel Fulfillment

Vicki Matranga, Design Programs Coordinator

Rick Blasgen is responsible for the overall business operations and strategic planning for CSCMP, an organization whose mission is to deliver leading-edge education and research for the supply chain management profession. He was recently designated Chair of the Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Blasgen is a member of Northwestern University’s Transportation Center Business Advisory Committee and a past chair of the Grocery Manufacturers Association Logistics Committee, as well as the past president of the Warehousing Education and Research Council.

Bimal Patel joined Amazon in 2012 and has held a variety of leadership positions, including overseeing multiple sites across a region of the U.S. with responsibility for thousands of full-time employees and start-up operations of new buildings in the Amazon fulfillment network. Before joining Amazon, he held leadership positions overseeing large scale operations at Whirlpool, Ford, Delphi Automotive and UPS. Patel holds a BS in civil engineering and an MS in industrial manufacturing engineering management.

Rick Blasgen peppered his presentation with humorous slides and comments to enliven what could have been a dry recitation of statistics. He began the session on national supply chain issues with a quick review of how the field has evolved since the 1950s when it was considered simply physical distribution to its role today as a critical factor in global strategic planning, cost controls and revenue generation.


Current Supply Chain Status

The typical supply chain in the past was a functional flow that involved people, processes and technologies in basic ways to move an item from product sourcing to storage, then to manufacturing, again to storage, on to distributor, retailer and end user. Quoting from the CSCMP’s recent report, in 2015 the cost of U.S. business logistics was $1.4 trillion, or almost 8% of the GDP. Inventory levels and tonnage flattened in 2015, while B2C parcel deliveries rose dramatically, driven by the growth of omnichannel retail, which challenges operating models in last-mile delivery. B2C shipments generate lower-than-average revenue and have higher operating costs. The U.S. Postal Service saw shipping package volume grown 14% in 2015.


Macroeconomic Trends

Macroeconomic trends also impact shipping. The share of coal-fired electricity generation has fallen dramatically, resulting in a reduction in coal traffic and crude by rail. Cargo capacity increased with the increasing use of wide-body aircraft. Overcapacity in containerized shipping dropped pricing and propelled further consolidation. Labor issues in West Coast container ports drove traffic to other ports and altered seasonal patterns.


State of the Industry

International freight forwarding is a buyer’s market; with 25 global providers and many small firms competing to fill capacity in air and water, intense price competition results. The third party logistics (3PL) market has grown by roughly 7% annually since 2009. Technology will continue to play a significant role with leading logistics providers enabled by a “control tower” and a cloud-based transportation management system.


Industry Disruptors

Logistics is on the cusp of a new era because of four industry disruptors: technology adoption, consumer requirements, macroeconomic trends and operational constraints.  Technology developments include autonomous vehicles, robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, 3D printing, virtual reality and alternative fuels. Consumer requirements such as “want it now” attitudes, personalization, omnichannel shopping and the needs of aging consumers. Macroeconomic trends include globalization, volatile commodity prices, climate disruptions and urbanization. Operational constraints such as free trade agreements, environmental regulations, safety requirements and resource scarcity influence the scope, scale, reach and ability to perform logistics activities. Forecasting possibilities in these four disruptive quadrants, the CSCMP has created four strategic planning scenarios to map potential trouble spots and positive outcomes.


Governmental Attention

Blasgen then presented the goals of the Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness. This committee represents the first time that America’s businesses and the federal government are collaborating to identify and solve the biggest issues that impact the nation’s supply chain competitiveness. The committee is studying five key areas: finance and infrastructure, freight policy and movement, IT and data, trade and regulatory and workforce development.


Labor Needs

Our nation’s freight transportation system is a vast, complex network of almost seven million miles of highways, navigable waterways and pipelines.  Not only is the infrastructure of roads and bridges aged and in need of repairs and enhancement, but there is a huge underinvestment in personnel. Due primarily to retirement and turnover, employers will need to hire and train a total of 4.6 million employees, like truck drivers and maintenance technicians, from 2012 to 2022. There are 68% more job openings that the number of students entering the workforce. Supply chain managers coming out of college are getting jobs 8x faster than graduates in other fields and at salaries significantly higher than in more traditional professional paths.  Future supply chain professionals will work within the supply chain system that will require skills in inventory management, transportation, warehousing, materials planning, production planning and manufacturing, customer service and procurement.

Challenges in An Omni-Channel World          

Today consumers can order from anywhere and suppliers must fulfill from anywhere.  A shopper can order in a variety of ways: call center, tablet/mobile, website, brick & mortar stores, catalogs and flash sales, regardless of her physical location. Those products can be retrieved from retail distribution centers, e-commerce distribution centers, outlet locations, brick and mortar stores, pop-up stores and kiosks.                                                                                                   

Supply chain management today is a corporate necessity. It can be a vehicle for growth and generate revenue to improve the financial position of companies and economies. The field will require continued innovation and risks to develop new solutions.

Moderator Dan Raftery then posed questions from the audience about Amazon’s operations to Bimal Patel. He provided answers about Amazon’s growing network of fulfillment facilities, the uses of technology for scanning and weighing inbound freight and how they continue to reduce lead times in moving products to their destinations. He credited their excellent parcel delivery partners like FedEx and how they work with vendors to improve Amazon’s processes. He outlined how their sort centers separate large product orders into smaller quantities to ship to several distribution centers. Patel also gave examples of how Amazon collaborated with vendors to create frustration-free packaging for better shelf utilization and with greener materials to reduce waste.

Audience members asked about Amazon’s cargo planes, drone testing and driverless cars. Patel also addressed last-mile delivery methods and options for consumer package pick-ups in retail locations and designated locker sites.
Dan Raftery, Rick Blasgen and audience members engaged in a lively conversation on topics such as freight security, surge capacity needs, communication methods, carrier liabilities and college programs for preparing supply chain managers.


After closing remarks, facilitator Dan Raftery announced that the next CHESS conference will take place October 3-4, 2017, again at the Westin O’Hare.


CHESS 2016 was sponsored by the following business solutions companies:

LeSaint Logistics, 3PL fulfillment,

E-Power Marketing, OnLine Marketing experts to help you reach your target audience and create impactful online presence to generate measurable results.

NSF International not-for-profit, non-governmental organization global provider of public health and safety-based risk management.

OwnerIQ, transforms audience browsing behavior on your website into rich advertising targets to drive retail outcomes.

Ezcom Software grows your trading partner relationships with this EDI platform.

SmartBrief is a free daily e-newsletter that delivers essential housewares industry news to opt-in subscribers.

International Housewares Shippers Association (IHSA), not-for-profit shipper association for IHA members, improves total supply chain performance and provides stability and consistent value.