Owner Cary Kelly says the closure was due to the store’s lease expiring and deciding not to renew for another five years. Instead, Kelly is going into “semi-retirement” with plans to travel more, cook more and write in her food blog Cary in the Kitchen.
The pandemic wasn’t a factor in closing, she says. In fact, sales were about the same or better than previous years — perhaps related to people cooking at home more. Sales in 2020 were about even to 2019 and 2021 sales were the best in five years. Kelly also believes that many folks were worried about the fate of their favorite small businesses and prioritized supporting them.
In early January, the shop announced its closure with the expectation that it would close in about six weeks. Instead, all products and furnishings were sold in less than three weeks. Jan. 23, the store’s last day open, was marked with a champagne farewell and a packed house.
The business opened in 2011 in Shirlington at 4017 Campbell Avenue. It changed its name from Ah Love Oil & Vinegar to The Cookery in 2016. Kelly considered opening in Del Ray or Old Town Alexandria, but decided on Shirlington because of memories spending time there with her mom.
“We chose Shirlington because it was our favorite place to come and shop and eat. I remembered shopping there as a child in the ’50s with my mother,” Kelly tells ARLnow. “I have always loved the small town, close neighbor feel of Shirlington and guessed correctly that it would be a community that would support our business.”
She believes what made her shop special was the community and representing small, local makers.
“I focused on makers of color, unrepresented gender, LGBTQI and immigrants,” Kelly says. “I believe we brought a new awareness to our local community through the stories of these makers and the many fundraisers and awareness-raisers we conducted over the years.”
Of course, the closure is bittersweet and she will miss talking to customers about recipes and planning big holiday meals. Most of the staff that worked at The Cookery have been hired by Le Village Marché, a vintage home decor store located just down the street in Shirlington.
For the moment, the Cookery storefront remains empty. ARLnow has reached out to Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns the shopping center, about whether the space remains available to rent, but did not receive a response as of publication.
Kelly says the enjoyed her time in retail, despite it being a seven-day week job. She has no plans, however, to open another shop.
“Another store is not in the picture,” she says. “Honestly rents are so high… it’s difficult to make a profit.”
Hat tip to Thomas G.
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