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Cooking is more than providing nourishment; it’s a way to bring people together, to foster creativity and confidence, and to explore the world. Food is cultural, political, and environmental in ways that can be positive or divide us. This is what drives the team at Goods for Cooks. They use the store to promote connections between people and their food — and each other.
Since it opened in 1973, Goods for Cooks has been a retail staple on the downtown square. For a locally owned small business, that kind of longevity is remarkable. Most locally owned shops don’t survive past one or two generations of ownership, or the changing landscape of consumer habits and tastes. But Goods for Cooks has thrived through all of that.
In 2017, Sam Eibling and her brother George Huntington, along with Eibling’s husband, Doug, purchased the store, along with more than 45 years of history. They were proud to carry on the traditions that had made Goods an established shop in Bloomington. “We have a reputation to uphold, and we take that seriously,” Eibling says. Indeed, they have local customers who rely on them for unique gifts or to update their kitchenwares. Out-of-towners love the store as well. “There are also a lot of visitors who come to the store every year, as part of their annual trip to Bloomington,” she says.
These longtime customers know they can find quality products at Goods, from high-end cookware to inexpensive yet well-made utensils. It’s a cornucopia of kitchenware that can make experienced cooks giddy. But to reach new customers, and entice loyal customers to shop more often, Eibling has expanded their offerings. “In the last year, we’ve added more food items and quirky pieces, such as snarky tea towels,” she says.
The new items help diversify their offerings and their clientele. For those on a budget, the tea towels or cute kitchen accessories make excellent gifts or an inexpensive way to freshen their space. Anyone hosting a party can find a wealth of supplies, from barware to fancy cocktail mixes, plus gourmet European charcuterie that will impress their guests. And of course, Goods still provides kitchen bakeware, knives, and cookware — the must-have items every cook needs. “We want people to know they can shop our store not only for fine, affordable kitchenware, but also unique gifts, and everyday pantry items,” says Eibling.
Providing even more reason to shop at Goods for Cooks, the store also carries numerous locally made items. Wooden bowls, pottery, soaps, and other artisan products made in Indiana are sprinkled throughout the store. And Eibling and Huntington have cultivated relationships with other Bloomington producers to provide another outlet for their items. “We have tea from Cup and Kettle, even though their shop is just a couple blocks away,” she says. “It’s another quality product for our store and another place to promote our local provider.”
That kind of thoughtful relationship building is a major reason Goods for Cooks has been in business so long. The products are fabulous, but in this digital age, it’s challenging for a brick and mortar store to carry items that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s their philosophy to help people grow in relationships to food and food culture, to nourish, empower, and connect. This approach helps keep them relevant and necessary to their customers, and helps attract new ones. “We want everyone to build those connections, not just expert cooks or those who can afford expensive cookware,” says Eibling. “Everyone is welcome at the table.”
The team does this in every interaction with their customers. “We take the time to listen to their stories — about food, travels, family traditions — and we help them make the right purchasing decision,” Eibling says. Sometimes this means guiding them to a less expensive product or possibly no purchase at all. She explains: “If we can find a way for you to make a dish using items you already have, we will do that.” It’s all about building trust and letting their customers know they will get experienced and helpful advice.
These days, having face-to-face conversations is just one way Goods for Cooks communicates with customers. Eibling has ramped up the digital communications, using social media, the Goods website and blog, and their e-newsletter, “Welcome to the Table.” In keeping with their philosophy, she uses these tools to create deeper connections. “We share recipes, personal stories about using products, and profiles of makers,” she says. “We talk about things we are excited about, and what we think will excite our customers.”
Creating those connections and building a cooking community is why customers still love to shop at Goods for Cooks. It’s helped the store be successful for over four decades and why it will remain a prized part of our town for many years to come. Whether it’s through new technologies or old-fashioned face-to-face conversations, gourmet cookware or unique ceramics, the team at Goods helps people appreciate the many valuable aspects of cooking a meal and sharing good food with others.
Goods for Cooks is located at 115 N. College Ave. Store hours are Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Find information on their products, special events, and social media channels at goodsforcooks.com.
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