Seattle's Mrs. Cook's hangs up her apron
Mrs. Cook's, the beloved kitchen store and one of the original stores at Seattle's University Village, is closing after 42 years.
The shop has been swamped since word got out about owner Carol Bromel’s retirement. On a recent Monday morning, people were already lining up to the cash register with their purchase.
Longtime customer Sally Miller remembers reading the news. “Oh, I was almost crying,” said Miller. “I have found this to be well curated, so beautiful but high quality.”
In the back room, store manager Amy Pomp Lorette furiously placed orders online to fill the shelves. Bromel asked her to add a few items on her list. “We didn’t expect last week to be this crazy!” Bromel said.
Bromel was a schoolteacher who was drawn to kitchen retail when her husband’s work took them to different West Coast cities. When they settled in Seattle, she knew she wanted to open her own store.
“We’ve weathered economic downtimes because we’re not frivolous,” Bromel said. “I mean, we have things that can be frivolous, but for the most part, if you were buying a piece of cookware, it’s going to last your whole life.”
The shop is named after her husband’s grandmother, Hylie Cook. When they opened in 1976, at their first location on Sand Point Way, Bromel said people bought their cookwares at hardware stores or department stores like Sears.
Back then, there were no celebrity chefs. Bromel said Julia Child and Graham Kerr were the main influencers in the cooking world. Gourmet cooking was French-focused.
“People still kind of get, 'I don’t know how to pronounce that,'" she said. "So we’ve tried to make it more approachable and less intimidating and sort of comfortable and fun — because that’s what cooking is, it’s about gathering friends together and family, making things together or sharing a meal.”
For her part, Bromel likes to cook Italian, but gave that up a few years ago. “My husband does all the cooking," she said. "I cook once in a while on the weekends, but for the most part my husband cooks.”
Bromel has seen many cooking trends. A few years ago, it was sheet pans. Then when people started watching the Great British Baking Show, demand for cake pans went up. These days, it’s the multi-cooker, a plug-in appliance that braises, steams, and fries food. No matter what the gadget, her staff will test every new product to see if it makes the cut.
“They take it home, and they test it out and make different things," Bromel said. So they’re enthusiastic about the ones that work and the ones that didn’t work we don’t bring into the store,” Bromel said.
Even with the convenience of online shopping, Bromel said customers keep coming back for the staff’s knowledge. That, and their lending library, which allows people to try out a cookware before committing.
But now it’s time to end the retail chapter of her life. “You get to a point in your life where…family and friends take priority over running a business,” Bromel said. “It’s been a great run, and it’s been a lot of fun, but 42 years is enough!”
Bromel said she looks forward to spending the holidays with her family on the East Coast.
Manager Amy Pomp Lorette had known a year ago this day would come and thought it would be hard to work through the remaining month. Mrs. Cook’s last day is January 15.
“I told Carol I would have to wear dark glasses. It’s been so busy, and there’s been such positive love that it’s been okay; there’s no time to be sad," Lorette said. "I’m sure when the store is totally empty it’s going to hit me.”