Special to the Record
A passion for cooking inspired Theresa Mooney to purchase Beyond the Kitchen Door in 1993 and it is a passion for community that has kept her in business for the past 20 years.
Now it is time for the next stage of her life — retirement.
As she prepares for a slower pace, she looks forward to seeing what the next generation of entrepreneurs brings to the downtown core.
For Mooney one of the most important qualities in a business owner is passion. “You get your passion and you build around that,” she says. “This gives you the energy to go forward and expand.”
Her secret to success and her biggest advice for future business owners: Listen to your customers and maintain your focus. “Make sure you are fussy for your customers,” she says. “If we wouldn’t use a product ourselves, you wouldn’t find it in the store.”
Running a successful business relies on having a strong team. She is quick to praise long-time employee Sheila McLellan for her strong customer service focus. McLellan has been with the store more than 15 years.
“You can’t run any business without good employees,” Mooney said.
As Mooney’s personal focus shifts from business to family, she remains committed to shopping locally and supporting downtown businesses. “Box stores don’t have the specialized knowledge that local retailers have,” she says. “Not to mention the ambiance and atmosphere that makes our downtown core so unique.”
Mooney is quick to emphasize the importance of supporting local businesses. One of the key benefits to shopping with local retailers is product knowledge. Smaller stores with specialized product knowledge are more equipped to meet customer needs than large box stores.
“Their staff won’t likely know the difference between a quiche pan and a flan pan,” said Mooney when discussing the influx of box stores into the community.
This kind of unique product knowledge is important to Mooney and has been a cornerstone of her business. She recalls a customer looking for a specific knife he’d seen on television. Instead of offering the knife as a quick sale she encouraged the customer to head back to the kitchen and try it out, comparing it to other knives before making a decision. He ended up choosing a different knife altogether.
“Until you try a product and hold it in your hand you don’t always know what you want We do our homework and when we recommend a product it is because we know it.”
With a fully-equipped kitchen at the back of the store there have been many opportunities for culinary events over the years, but hosting cooking classes turned out to be a much bigger job than Mooney had the time or desire to undertake. This is where Sue Smith jumped in, taking on an integral role in the marketing and co-ordination of high-quality cooking classes emphasizing local product and featuring celebrity chefs.
Smith and Mooney reminisce over some of the great classes they’ve offered over the years, hosting high-profile chefs such as James Barber, Bonnie Stern and Anna Olson, but one of the highlights that makes both women’s eyes light up as they tell it was a cooking class that Estevan Tuna supplied. A fisherman wearing full gear, including the hooks that he uses to catch the fish, delivered fresh tuna to the class, which they then learned how to prepare.
“It was so neat,” Smith recalls. “The class could see firsthand — this is the fisherman that caught the fish, this is how the food gets on your table.”
“And it makes it taste so much better,” added Mooney.
Cooking for home has become an art, and one thing Mooney has learned from her customers is that kitchen utensils are tools.
“It was the men that taught me that,” she smiles. “Men come in after retiring and say, ‘I don’t know how she cut with that knife’.”
Mooney is looking forward to having more time to travel and cook with her family as she heads into retirement but she will miss the friends that have begun to feel like family after so many years in business. Though she does not know what the future holds for Beyond the Kitchen Door, her hope is that the store, which she has nurtured and fostered over the past two decades, will carry on under new ownership. There has been strong interest in the business but the store’s loyal customers are still waiting to hear what will happen next. Mooney looks forward to the vibrancy and fresh ideas of a new generation but her eyes really start to sparkle when she talks about spending more time with family — for one of the greatest pleasures of cooking is to make a meal and share a table with the ones you love.