Columbus, Ohio USA
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Cookware Sorcerer Conjures Kitchen Magic
By Karen Edward
© Photos by Gus Brunsman III
Nancy Haitz and Ron Fauver with Sam, a rescue from the Capital Area Humane Society, a familiar and endearing presence at Cookware.
Call it kitchen envy – that feeling that engulfs you every time Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, or any of a dozen chefs on the Food Network steps into their fully equipped studios to whip up something fabulous. Suddenly, you find your own kitchen woefully lacking – and with the holidays approaching, with all that turkey-basting and cookie-baking – well, that’s a bad place to be.
Fortunately, the Short North offers a solution by way of a snug little shop at 688 N. High Street called The Cookware Sorcerer. Here, you’ll find professional-quality equipment and utensils for all calibers of kitchen cooks, amateurs and award-winners alike.
Nancy Haitz and Ron Fauver, life-partners and recent newlyweds, opened the shop 16 years ago – a few blocks down from their present location. “We moved nine years ago because we needed the room and because I’ve always loved this space,” says Haitz.
Both Haitz and Fauver confess to a love of cooking, and Haitz says she enjoys gardening as well, which once stood her in good stead as North Market’s market master. “That atmosphere really gave me the entrepreneurial bug,” she says. It wasn’t too much later – just a few years, in fact – that the Cookware Sorcerer was launched.
That it quickly became a neighborhood mainstay is due to several factors. Credit a local population that likes to support area businesses, and a gay subset of that group who likes to entertain. The store’s location also makes it a convenient stop for Short North chefs who pop by regularly to replace or replenish their kitchen’s wares. Then, of course there’s Sam, the 9-year-old Dalmatian-Harlequin Great Dane mix whose endearing gaze out store windows lures even indifferent kitchen owners inside.
On the curve
Still, it’s Haitz and Fauver and their uncanny knack for staying on the edge of the cookware curve that’s largely responsible for the shop’s success.
Take the microplane grater, for example. Haitz and Fauver say they caught that trend just as it started to build.
“We’ve carried that product for 12 years,” says Haitz. “Originally there was just a cookware store in New York City that carried it, a store in Canada and us.”
Fauver adds the two have a drawer full of prototype graters at home they collected as the company continued to develop its product.
“It was originally used to plane wood,” Fauver explains, “but the inventor’s wife started using it in the kitchen, so the company worked to develop that side of it.”
Especially, Haitz continues the story, after Martha Stewart purchased a micro grater at the New York cookstore and dubbed it “a good thing.” “We couldn’t keep them in after that,” she says.
Still, the pair insists they don’t follow cookware trends (nor intentionally set them). “We stock traditional kitchen items,” says Haitz. Occasionally, orders of enamelware pots and pans arrive in the latest colors. “This year, it’s bright pastels,” says Haitz. But red remains popular and stainless steel and black anodized cookware never goes out of style, and all three are regularly stocked on the shop’s shelves.
“A lot of what we stock is at the request of customers,” says Fauver.
The Food Network influences such requests. So does the heritage of nearby neighborhoods.
“We still carry pasta machines because of the Italians in the area,” says Haitz.
Japanese utensils are also becoming more commonplace at the store. “And people are re-discovering Greek cooking and exploring the Mediterranean Rim,” says Haitz. Consequently, items you would need to prepare those dishes are available at the store.
Chefs raise awareness
Restaurants, too, are raising kitchen awareness. “Customers will be at a restaurant and the chef will have added a twist to a dish or tried something brand new,” says Haitz. Then, customers arrive at the shop, eager to try the same thing at home.
The recent popularity of sea salts, for example, can be attributed to this type of restaurant-to-home movement. When chefs suddenly became enamored with the various colored (and opaque) crystals, customers followed suit.
As a result, the Cookware Sorcerer stocks a spectrum of salts – and peppers – and the collection will continue to grow, says Haitz.
It’s all good news for the foodies and serious cooks who frequent the store.
“We have chefs who come from Cincinnati and Cleveland as well as Columbus and the Short North to shop here on their days off,” says Haitz.
If you feel like rubbing shoulders with them, plan to visit on Sunday, since that’s when most restaurants are closed, and chefs go shopping, says Haitz.
For non-professionals, any day is a good day to shop at the Cookware Sorcerer (although the store is closed on Mondays).
“People who come here find cooking enjoyable,” says Haitz. These are the people who don’t consider food preparation a chore. They cook from scratch, and they want quality both in terms of ingredients and equipment.
“You won’t find any blue ducks here,” says Fauver, referring to the blue bow-tied fowl that decorate certain department-store cookware. “And you won’t find any punch bowls with Santa on them either,” he adds.
There simply isn’t room for such merchandise on the shop’s shelves – nor would they sell such pieces if they could find room.
“We don’t sell cute,” says Haitz. “We sell what’s useful.”
A quick look around their shop confirms that. Not everything is on view, of course, so be sure to ask if you don’t see what you want (and if they don’t have it, they’ll order it for you). Otherwise, you’ll find all the basics for any cook. Some, like the Epicurean cutting boards, are traditional products made new again. “The boards are wonderful,” says Haitz. “They’re a wood and resin composition that can be run through the dishwasher when you’re through using them.”
Copper cookware hangs close to the ceiling. It’s not as popular anymore, says Haitz. “Copper was quite the rage at one time because it allowed the even cooking of food, but these days, stainless steel works just as well, and there isn’t as much maintenance involved.”
Elsewhere in the store are pastry utensils for bakers, a small selection of chef work clothes, teapots of every shape and hue. There is a touch of whimsy displayed in a case at the cash register station – culinary-themed jewelry which Haitz says she started carrying when she wearied of customers asking her where she found her jewelry. “I’d get it at trade shows,” she says, so she began to buy extra pieces and selling them in the shop.
Cutlery collection extraordinary
If there is one area where the Cookware Sorcerer excels, however, it’s in the shop’s cutlery collection – a vast array of knives for every purpose, and from every well-known manufacturer. Whether you want German precision or lighter-weight knives from Japan, you have only to head to the corner of the store that displays them. The Cookware Sorcerer is known to have the best assortment of cutlery in Central Ohio.
“Women usually prefer the Japanese knives because they’re easy to handle, and more manageable than other knives,” says Haitz. But any of the knives on hand are both reliable and professional.
The shop recently began offering a knife-sharpening service for anyone who wants to hone their kitchen blades. The sharpening is done by hand in the store, usually by Fauver, and can accommodate requests for both coarse and fine grindings. The chef from nearby Rigsby’s stops by regularly with his blades.
Haitz and Fauver also have a friend, Michael Olshawksy, who occasionally drops by to demonstrate cookie decorating in the store. You might have seen him during last month’s Gallery Hop as he showed visitors how to use the shop’s colored sugars and sprinkles to decorate cookies for Halloween.
Don’t look for him at the Holiday Hop, though. “It just gets too crazy in here,” says Haitz. Instead, Olshawsky will be demonstrating holiday cookie decoration on December 9. “We like to give him his own day to do the demonstrations,” Haitz explains.
What you will see, however, is one of Haitz’s attractive window displays, which she plans well ahead and executes care-fully. With her background in graphic design, the displays are always eye-catching, but her holiday displays are special show-stoppers. Be sure to watch for them as you tour up or down High Street.
What you won’t see much of at the Cookware Sorcerer are signs. Fauver says they like to keep signage to a minimum inside the store.
“We want the merchandise to shine, not their manufacturers necessarily,” says Haitz.
It’s why only two fixtures made by product manufacturers have been allowed in the shop. Fauver has made the rest, and as a result, the shop’s general appearance is sleek, clean, orderly, uncluttered – in fact, not unlike the perfect kitchen. The only sign you will see – prominently displayed by the cash register – is a drawing of shop-dog Sam, drawing a wagon of kitchen equipment toward him.
“We’ve been using it ever since we picked up Sam,” says Haitz, who explains he was a rescue from the Capital Area Humane Society. “He came to the shop before we even took him home,” says Haitz.
The sign has become a logo for the Cookware Sorcerer – and, in a sense, a symbol of everything that Haitz and Fauver dreamed of 16 years ago. Their life now is one of pure pleasure, they say – encompassing their passion, their independence, a neighborhood they live and work in and love – and a dog who happens to dote on bits of banana, as well as his time with his owners, both in the shop and at home.
All in all, not a bad life for Haitz and Fauver – and Sam. In fact, it’s not difficult at all to conjure an appropriate word to describe it: Magic.
Cookware Sorcerer is located at 688 N. High St. Hours are Tues. - Sat. 11-7; Fri. - Sat. 11-6; Sun. 12 - 5.
Michael Olshawsky will demonstrate holiday cookie decoration on Saturday, Dec.9. Call 614-228-8678 for more information.
©2006 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.