WHAT WE LOVE: Design-driven, functional tools, for home cooks and professionals alike, to enhance the pleasures of cooking and eating.
WHAT WE WANT: Knives from Horn & Heel and Kanehide, a board from BCMT, and some carbon steel pans.
WHERE: Accoutre is located in Shockoe Bottom, locally known as “The Bottom” and one of Richmond’s oldest centers of commerce.
WHO: Former professional chef, Rob Bland.
Established in 2016, Rob Bland has bought his worldwide experience as a professional chef to Accoutre, a kitchen and home goods shop for cooks and food lovers. Rob’s wealth of knowledge expertly guides customers in their choice through the wonderful array of tools and objects available at Accoutre.
Why did you choose to name the shop Accoutre? It’s derivative of the french term accoutrement meaning “accessory” or in culinary terms, “condiment” or “accompaniment”. Accoutre is the root, meaning “to outfit”. These terms originate in militaristic language, but through etymology have evolved to be more familiar cooking/ gastronomic words (much like “chef” just means basically boss, not necessarily “top cook person”).
Where do you source the products you sell at Accoutre? I source products by beginning to itemize the needs of any cook, at home or in a restaurant. What would I need to begin to compose a dish or recipe? From beginning to end, to get food from a raw state into an edible meal, and how to do it in style with products that will not fail. Products are sourced globally, so long as the criteria of exacting standards I set forth are met. Admittedly, a lot does come from Japan, Scandinavia and Spain.
What makes Accoutre unique? I like to model my retail experience based around the foundations of the restaurant industry: service. I use my knowledge and expertise to offer something more than just a transactional entity. Giving my customers a chance to handle objects and see them firsthand, to make purchases they will be satisfied with for the duration of the life of the product. I feel that it is particularly important for items that one will presumably use on a daily basis, to have a physical presence in a brick and mortar store. Photos, lofty language and dimensions can tell a lot, but fall short on the impactful essence of tactility.
Who are your customers? Home cooks of all skill levels, foodies, design nerds, professional cooks and chefs.
Rob Bland, shopkeeper at Accoutre
Who inspires you? My partner Kendall, Dave Chang, Carla Lalli Music, Sage Francis, Abe Shaw, Mattie Hinkley.
What inspires you? Cooking! Food! Design!
Before I was a shopkeeper, I…. cooked professionally, on very high levels for about sixteen years, then went into wholesale sales with an artisanal salumeria followed by large format construction materials supply.
What motivated you to open a shop? The store I wanted to shop at didn’t exist in Richmond, so I made it. For my friends and neighbors, for our community to have a special place that would help them enjoy cooking and eating with form and function in the spotlight.
Did you have prior retail experience? Wholesale, not retail.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? Learning to deal with the slower times, and patience in organic growth and customer base.
Your favorite thing about owning an independent shop? Participating with my community and fellow small business owners. Product sourcing, and developing a real relationship with excellent brands/ designers/ craftspersons.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Think. It. Through. Not to say that in a deterrent manner, nor to say that you have to have it all figured out from the beginning (no one ever does, and you’ll constantly evolve to overcome new challenges), but to really determine if what you want to do is something that is good for you, your community (near and far), and to also analyze the sustainability of your model.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be..? Daydreaming about opening this rad concept for a kitchen-centric design store.
What is your perfect day off in Richmond? Wake up and get some product photography done, head to Lamplighter for coffee then grab a late breakfast with some pals (usually fellow small biz owners) at Perly’s and talk retail, talk some b.s., followed up with a cortado from Saison Market. Maybe then I’d hit the local shops and say what’s up to some of the Richmond indy biz squad (Boketto, Jackson & James, Dear Neighbor, Brick & Mortar, Na Nin, amongst others of course). Grab a light lunch at Dinamo and perhaps head over to Chop Suey to see what’s new in cookbooks or fiction. I’ll usually start going down some rabbit holes looking for new product in the late afternoon and definitely hit Belmont Butchery and maybe the market to see what’s gonna be for dinner and then get cooking! If it’s a “break night” from cooking at home, I’ll snag my partner and head to Alewife for an extraordinary meal and a few beverages.
I wish I could… Or rather, “I hope I can…” …Make this world better than I came into it.
ON THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
“Whew, that’s a tough one. For brick and mortar shops to thrive, we have to begin to combat the instant gratification type of mentality that is stemming from e-commerce. I think that it will be of the highest importance to occupy a hyper-specific niche to really carve out a loyal customer base, while also having the opportunity to grow into new markets. Retail will need to become something special and destination-oriented again, no matter the nature of the goods being provided. I think we all need to band together and create a solidarity that enables everyone to thrive and to create a network of support and recognition, while maintaining an absolute meritocracy. And stop selling products that just ruin the integrity of high craftsmanship or manufacturing, and stop selling things that destroy the Earth.”
Photography: Khand Tenney
13 South 15th Street, Richmond
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