Executive Chef opens in Kailua

Published: Feb. 29, 2012 at 8:45 PM HST
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It used to be that only commercial chefs had all the good toys in the kitchen, but all that changed 30 years ago, when local company, Executive Chef, opened at Ward Warehouse. In tonight's Small Business In Hawaii segment, Ramsay Wharton takes a look at the company's latest expansion on the Windward side.

Executive chef opened its second store at the Kailua Town Center last month.

"Executive Chef is Hawaii's premier kitchen store," said Executive Chef Owner, Jim Russo.

And it's not just for the professional cook, but the home cook.

"These new shapes of cupcake holders. You look at that and you just want to have one," said Russo talking about the latest inventory for the new store.

With a half a million dollars in inventory...variety seems to be the "spice of life" for Executive Chef.

"I think the products are better now than they used to be 30 years ago," said Russo.

From onion goggles, and knives, to pet and kid items, there are 14,000 different product lines in this store. And they'll cost anywhere from a $1 to over a $1,000 for one of the high-end espresso machines.

"The product selection is everything," exclaimed Russo. "That's how we can differentiate from the big boxers. We have depth in everything that we do."

Executive Chef's Windward expansion was about a year in the making. Russo said he took advantage of the recession's low rent opportunities and a loan from Central Pacific Bank, to expand his business and create 15 new jobs.

"December is the first full month it's been open," said Russo. "I think our customers have been happy with what we've done, from the comments I've heard. And the figures have been better than expected."

The Executive Chef opened during the 2011 Thanksgiving week. Initially, it tried to time its opening with Whole Foods next door, but that's been pushed back to Spring 2012.  One of the things that might help bring business here to the new store, is that Windward residents no longer have to go into town to find their favorite culinary gift, gizmo and gadget.

Russo believes they'll definitely see an uptick in business when Whole Foods opens in mid-April. But it's not just locals who shop here, visitors make up a quarter of the company's business and the majority of them are from Japan.

And more men seem to be spending time in the kitchen.

I asked Japanese shopper Hiroto Harishige and his female companion, "Who cooks? You cook...or she cooks?  The woman laughed and pointed at Harishige, "He cook, " she said.  Harishige pointed at himself and said, "Cook. She eats."

And as long as people keep eating and cooking --privately or professionally -- Executive Chef hopes to stay in business, and even, keep expanding. Perhaps on the West side next, smiled Russo.