For nearly a quarter-century The Peppermill has been a fixture in Brooklyn, touting itself as the world’s first kosher kitchenware store.
Today, co-owners and sisters-in-law Karen Braver and Debbi Braver are selling their goods and serving their long-time customers from a new location in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn.
“For 21 years we were in our previous location, which is about six blocks from where we are now,” Karen Braver told Kitchenware Today. “The building we were in was sold and we needed to move.”
Forced to find a new location because of a building sale or lease expiration is nothing new for independent gourmet kitchenware store owners. But having to do so during a pandemic presents a unique set of challenges.
But the Bravers found the right store close to their previous location, which turned out to have a silver lining.
“Our new store is larger and modern looking,” Braver said. “The shelving, decor and lighting are much more up-to-date, which provides a better shopping experience and makes it easier for our customers to find product.”
The new store is the latest chapter in The Peppermill’s history, which dates back to 1997. Braver, who said she regularly visited kitchenware shops when she traveled throughout the U.S., decided to open the store after a challenge from her husband.
“One day he said to me, ‘why not just open your own store?’” she recalled. “I then approached Debbi, who is into cooking and baking and would make beautiful cakes for family celebrations, to see if she wanted to team up. The rest is history.”
In the new location since December, the move was one of several issues the Bravers were forced to confront over the prior 12 months. Beginning in March of 2020, Karen and Debbi successfully ran their business in what for a time was the epicenter of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Facing a high degree of uncertainty, The Peppermill had a couple of things working in their favor when much of New York City went into lockdown in March of 2020.
The kitchenware store, which falls under the classification of a hardware store, was permitted to stay open. Also, The Peppermill had just launched a revamped website that same month and suddenly its customer base was forced to stay home and cook more.
“In a normal year, many of our customers would have gone away for Passover to visit family,” Braver said. “But last year they stayed home. As a result, they needed cookware and other items and they came to us. It really did save our business.”
While foot traffic in the store was non-existent, The Peppermill began deliveries to customers in Brooklyn and shipped orders to other locations around the metropolitan area that included Manhattan and New Jersey.
Since opening the new store, customers have returned to check out the new location. Braver said seeing shoppers back in the store is a welcome sight, but as of this writing mask and social distancing requirements remain in place.
As with any small business, owners are only as good as how they deal with their next challenge. For The Peppermill that hurdle is shortages of key products.
“For years Cuisinart’s multi-clad cookware has been one of our best sellers,” Braver said. “Our customers love the quality and the price was perfect for someone who didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a more expensive set of cookware. But it has been out of stock.”
Despite some product availability issues, Braver said she and Debbi have settled into their new location.
“We continue to stay connected with our shoppers through our digital and print newsletters that allow us to share lots of information about new products and recipes,” Karen Braver said. “That effort encourages people to keep coming back for more.”