Retailer: The Culinary Apple
Location: Chelan, Wash.
Owners: David and Mary Weldy
Square footage: 1,600 sq. ft. in the retail space; less than 500 in the kitchen space
Located in the heart of Washington State’s apple country, The Culinary Apple has taken a leaf from its surroundings with a housewares store stocked with all things apple.
There are apple cookie cutters, apple-themed textiles, apple pancake rings and even kitchenware products that make it easier to peel apples. Owners David and Mary Weldy also sell a wide variety of kitchenware, gadgets and cookware, have 25-sq. ft. of gourmet foods, and they churn out over 4,000 pounds of fudge annually from their small store kitchen.
Oh yes, they also sell apples, shipping the famous Washington State beauties all over the country. (The Lake Chelan region supplies 50 percent of all Red Delicious apples sold in the U.S.) “The apple products are a niche market for us because it is a specialty item,” says David Weldy. They work with vendors like Wilton Armetale, he says, to come up with special apple-themed products.
The store also stocks Lake Chelan wines from the 30+ wineries located around the resort area, and welcomes shoppers who arrive fresh from visiting the nearby wineries’ tasting rooms. Mary Weldy notes those customers are especially enthusiastic shoppers. “They do their wine tastings and then they come shopping and they are kind of inclined to spend more,” she says. “It influences their behavior.”
The two celebrated the store’s 20th anniversary this year with a number of events, including a 20th anniversary sale, where nearly everything in the store was 20 percent off. Customers are primed for this event because there is an anniversary sale every year at The Culinary Apple. For example, last year everything was 19 percent off. And, there are plenty of giveaways, thanks to the efforts of loyal vendors, the Weldys say.
“It is a once-a-year sale, and we always have customers lined up outside the door,” Mary notes. The anniversary event in June had six demonstration stations, manned by vendors showing off their wares. Customers who visited all six stations were eligible for prizes, and with $2,000 worth of giveaways, “pretty much everyone gets a prize,” she says.
Customers are also greeted (even on non-anniversary celebration days) by the smells of the kitchen. The fudge-making business is a sideline Dave estimates brings in upwards of $60,000 of profit for the store each year. Also on the stove are cinnamon-glazed pecans, cashews and almonds.
The cooking smells combine to add to the atmosphere at the store, which the couple strive to make a homey experience. “We greet customers with tastings of whatever we are cooking that day,” Mary says. “It is like selling a house; we have soft background music and the wonderful smell of whatever is cooking that day. These sensory experiences are things that bring back memories to our customers.”
The couple, former Seattle tech people, are also committed bloggers, and their website, culinaryapple.com, is filled with information ranging from “Papa Dave’s Fudge Blog” (check out the chocolate fudge popcorn recipe) to “The Chelan Decanter Wine Blog,” a first-hand look at some of the local wineries. (It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it, reads one entry.)
A store manager runs the website and an outside expert pushes the pair to be active in their blogging. “He really feels it attracts more people to our page,” Mary says. “The idea isn’t to sell anything, but rather to share information. He pushes us to do four blogs a quarter.” Which reminds her of something. “Dave, you owe us a blog,” she says.