Donna Suh has already bought and sold plenty of kitchen equipment . She’s done this both on behalf of her former employer (she used to work for Williams Sonoma, land of the $250 casserole dish) and herself (She’s moved twelve times in the last ten years).
“After the last time I moved I thought there should be a place you could buy or trade,” Suh, says. “I thought, maybe I’m crazy, but maybe this could be a real idea.”
The 29-year-old Suh had never started a business before. So she spent more than a year working on her idea with the Small Business Development Center, and in mid-November, the doors to her new boutique kitchen shop finally opened on 22nd Street between Guerrero and Dolores. Pot and Pantry buys, sells and trades everything from Pyrex casserole dishes to cutting boards, oven mitts, and cookie cutters.
No tchotchkes. “I want everything to be usable,” Suh says. She’s focused on timeless and vintage cookware – the sort of items that get passed down through families. She scoured estate sales for months before the store opened. “I’ve kind of been scavenging,” Suh said. “I’ve gotten to know the neighboring counties pretty well.” She plans to be be buying for cash or trading with people who are ready to get rid of their vintage teapot or people who are moving and can’t take their whole kitchens with them by the end of December.
For now though, she is focused on selling the new and used goods in her shop. Though she initially thought people would go more for new items, she said sales between new and used have been split about 50-50 so far. Locally sourced linens have been popular so far, but she says that it’s too early to tell what’s the hottest. ”Everything has sold here and there.”
Though real estate around here isn’t cheap, Suh, who lives in SOMA, knew she wanted her store to be in the Mission.
“Maybe this is my imagination, but I don’t know if this would fit in every neighborhood,” she said. “With the Mission being so eclectic, it makes sense here.”
It took Suh some searching to find the right spot for her new place, but the tiny storefront sandwiched between a hair salon and Liberties Tavern, was the right price for Suh. The spot, which once enjoyed a brief spot of notoriety as a wildly popular pot club that was squeezed out and exiled to Fisherman’s Wharf, had a quiet life as a gallery before Suh moved in.
Up the hill from the bustling Valencia Street corridor, Suh sometimes feels her shop is more like the suburbs. “It’s really quiet over here. It’s a big gamble,” she admitted. The heaviest foot traffic that she gets is the brunch crowd – people wandering down from Noe Valley and Dolores Heights into the Mission on the weekends.
Inside Pot and Pantry, the feeling is like walking into a cozy kitchen. There a vintage stove in the back and a table set with a green and white tablecloth, napkins that match the oven mitts hanging in the window and yellow flowers sitting in a can-turned-vase.
Suh admits her own kitchen is only a quarter of the size of her display kitchen.
“This is my dream kitchen,” she says.
Not that she has much time to cook right now. Suh estimates that she’s been putting in 60-80 hours per week lately. “I’m flying by the seat of my pants,” she said. “Everything’s a blur. I feel like it’s been one long day since I started.”