The coronavirus pandemic disrupted nearly every facet of our lives — school, work, socializing, exercising. But for many people, perhaps the biggest change brought about by the pandemic was all the extra time spent at home.
And with restaurants closed or offering limited seating, a curious trend began to emerge: People started cooking.
Even people who’d never touched a saute pan or whose cooking skills stopped at pressing a few buttons on the microwave suddenly found themselves in the kitchen, exploring and experimenting with food.
Peppercorn — the long-standing kitchen supply store on Boulder’s Pearl Street — was right there with them, every step of the way.
Like many businesses during the pandemic, Peppercorn had to pivot its business model toward online shopping and delivery, but remained true to its core mission of providing high-quality kitchen essentials to home cooks.
“People were ordering a lot of cookware online — that’s how it all started,” said Janice Manville, Peppercorn’s vice-president and a long-time employee of the store. “All of a sudden, we were getting all these cookware orders and we thought, ‘We’d better fill them.’ It was a lot of junior chefs and more men were cooking. Everyone started thinking, ‘Well, I’m home now, might as well just do this.’ It did show people they were capable of doing it.”
Long before the pandemic, Peppercorn has been supplying home chefs with the tools, gadgets, decorations, accessories, books and materials they need to be successful in the kitchen. The company’s history dates back to 1977, when Doris Houghland and a friend moved to Boulder and started a cooking school.
Over time, however, the school began to evolve into the Peppercorn store we know and love today.
“They were showing so many products (while teaching) that people would ask, ‘Where did you get that spatula? Where did you get that pan?’ and they realized there was a need there,” Manville said. “They decided to have something small and just bring in a couple of items and sell them to people who went to the cooking school.”
Eventually, the store outshone the cooking school. Houghland bought the building at 1235 Pearl Street, where Peppercorn is now located, and began growing her kitchen supply paradise. The store has since expanded into the building next door and now encompasses more than 17,600 square feet, according to Manville.
Peppercorn, which typically employs 40 to 50 people, has remained an iconic Boulder store for 44 years because of its diverse selection of products and personalized customer service, Manville said.
Though Peppercorn stays abreast of the newest trends and fads — and always makes sure to have trendy colors and styles in stock — the store’s staff members always encourage shoppers to be themselves. They’re happy to lend a hand helping customers find linens to match their dinnerware, whatever their style or aesthetic.
“Crate and Barrel would say, ‘The color story for the year is gray,’ but we don’t do that,” Manville said. “We don’t change everything to be gray because a lot of people still want purples, blues and pinks. We don’t say to someone, ‘Gray is the seasonal color and that’s what you get in your house. We want them to have a whole gamut of things they can pick from versus someone dictating, ‘These are your colors for the season. These are your styles for the season.’”
In addition to cookware from brands like Cuisinart and All-Clad, some of Peppercorn’s best-selling items include knives, kitchen gadgets and cookbooks. The store also began preparing and selling gift baskets during the pandemic, and those have continued to be popular.
Peppercorn thrives on tourism business, particularly during the spring and summer months, but also has a loyal following of Boulder residents.
No matter what the future holds after the pandemic, one thing is certain: Thanks to its vast array of kitchen gear and welcoming atmosphere, Peppercorn will remain a Pearl Street staple for years to come.
“Boulder is very eclectic,” Manville said. “People in Boulder are very laid back and when they come in, they don’t look like the person who would want upscale dinnerware. You really have to be aware because just because people look casual doesn’t mean they don’t want beautiful things in their home.”