Any home chef worth his salt knows the brand name J.A. Henckels, Germany’s famous manufacturer of high-end kitchen knives known for balance, sharpness, and longevity. But not everyone knows that the company also owns Staub, a France-based maker of topnotch cast-iron cookware, and Italy’s Ballarini, maker of high-end non-stick cookware. Most importantly for Ottawa Magazine readers, J.A. Henckels, under the trademark Zwilling, also operates retail stores and is just about set to launch Canada’s first “shop within a shop” in Kanata.
The location? Grace in the Kitchen, which recently took over the retail unit next door. Owner Bert Plomer then tore down a wall, and has been busy installing shelving and lighting in the 1,200-square-foot Zwilling store. When City Bites caught up with Plomer, the banners were up and the impressive wall-to-ceiling shelving was ready to go. As he waited for the imminent arrival of the knives, pots, and glasses to fill all those shelves, Plomer offered City Bites a tour of the space. The “soft launch” is set for September 6, 2016.
You’ve been tantalizing us with social media posts about your renovation for a few weeks now. What’s the scoop?
We’re getting a 1,258-square-foot Zwilling “shop within a shop.” It’s the first of its kind in Canada, so we’re pretty excited.
Right off the bat, tell us about Zwilling.
It’s a division of J.A. Henckels, the big German knife manufacturer. They’re really well-known for their amazing knifewear, but the company also owns France-based Staub, which is known for its cast-iron cookware, and Ballarini cookware out of Italy. So the new space will be filled with not only knives, but beautiful European cookware. They even do wine glasses and accessories — they do everything.
Why open the Zwilling store within Grace in the Kitchen?
Zwilling first came to me about a year and a half ago and asked whether I’d like to manage a standalone store in Ottawa. I looked around a bit, but ultimately decided I didn’t want to try to run two separate stores. I’m a hands-on guy, so I really want to be at Grace in the Kitchen all the time.
And then the sports store next door to us decided not to renew its lease, so I suddenly had the opportunity to knock out the wall and add this big “shop within a shop” to Grace in the Kitchen.
Did you get to design the space?
No. And that’s a good thing! I’ve seen Zwilling’s booths at trade shows and they really stand out. They’re just ‘Wow.’ Once we measured out the space, everything was designed and shipped from Germany. I did actually order the dining room table, which is set in the entranceway to the store — I can’t wait to decorate it for the harvest season using all the products that are about to be shipped here.
So when is all your stock arriving?
It’s actually coming within the next few days, but it will take us a while to unpack and get things up on shelves. The plan is for a “soft opening” on Sept. 6, so people can stop by and see the store with everything on the shelves. We’re planning a big grand opening on Sept. 24.
Any details available?
A few. It will be an invitation-only evening event. There will be wine and cheese, obviously, and some promotions. The executive chef from the French Embassy will be making appetizers.
Does it feel like you’ve come a long way since your early days 15 years ago in Old Ottawa South?
It does. Bank Street was excellent to us, but we simply outgrew the retail spot, which is why we moved to Kanata five years ago. Kanata, Stittsville, Barrhaven, Richmond — everyone from around here has also been great to us.
This Zwilling shop is going to bring in people from all over the city once they hear about it — it’s a real showcase for so many European cooking products.
Will you be holding demos to show off all this new stock?
Definitely. We’re planning for knife courses — care and sharpening — but the longer-term plan is for other types of events like cooking demos and maybe some knife competitions.
Photography by Sarah Brown