She has worked there since she was 8, sweeping floors for her father who owned the store. Even now, the official full owner of Pryde’s for 12 years, Louise still finds herself connected to every facet of the work, from talking to customers to overseeing the wares to, yes, sweeping the floors. “This is my office,” she says, gesturing to the stairs where we sit with mugs of tea, watching passersby inspect the cookware. “I’m connected to this floor.”
Louise worked with her father for 27 years before buying Pryde’s from him. For some time her dreams lay outside the retail world – she thought about becoming a labor and delivery nurse, and also studied communications and dreamed of working for CNN. After a stint in college, she says she began realizing how much she loved Pryde’s. To her, it became not so much a business but “a lifestyle and a tradition.” Today, she also sees it as a tool to help her teach her children (all 6 of them) how to manage life and relate to other people. She tells her children and others not to stress too much about what they study or what they do, because nothing will be wasted. Her interest in labor and delivery nursing certainly helped her as she had her six children, and her communications background resurfaces when she makes her own commercials for Pryde’s. “There is no wasted time, because [everything] comes back to you later in life.”
The building in which Pryde’s currently resides was built in 1922 to serve as the Helen Thomes School of Dance. Louise still encounters women in their 80s who come in and tell her that they danced for Miss Thomes in the building, which retains the original wood floors. Louise honors the building’s history with name plaques, framed photos, and historical documents dotted throughout the store, telling the story of what once was. Laid over this history are shelves and shelves of everything you’d ever need in a kitchen. Cookware for every conceivable occasion. Octopus and football helmet and fleur de lis cookie cutters, praline carmelizing sugars, sprinkles in the shapes of lips and cows and pigs. Lobster oven mitts alongside all the serving pieces it would take to have lobster at your next dinner party. With 10,000 square feet of cooking heaven, and free coffee or tea while you shop, it’s the most pleasant hunt for cookware you’ll ever have. One employee, who also worked at Pryde’s 30 years ago and returned after retiring from another job, told me that much of her kitchen is still furnished with Pryde’s goods that she bought decades ago. What endeared me immediately to the store was the distinct feeling that neither a novice nor a serious cook would feel out of place in the store. Whether your kitchen has everything or nothing, you’ll find something at Pryde’s to suit your exact needs.
Offering people this array of choice is exactly what Pryde’s is all about. The luxury of running a small business is that Louise can specialize and expand to fill a niche, offering more options in her specialty than any big box store. Louise encourages people to shop locally, because “If we don’t support our local businesses, you won’t have any choices….it’ll be a world of strip malls, and those will be your choices.” Small businesses offer variety and interest to communities, they allow individuality that corporations can’t match. Indeed, an unexpected side effect of this Women in Business project has been developing my own passion and support for small businesses. When someone comes to visit me wherever I live, I don’t want to take them to eat or shop at a chain – I’m going to take them to the local businesses that offer tasty food and fabulous services you can’t get anywhere else. There is a place for every business size, but what a loss we sustain when a beloved small business closes. And it’s easy to make sure that never happens – simply by dropping in and bringing a friend.
This interview marks the end of this season of Women in Business portrait interviews. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know these amazing women, whose businesses deeply reflect their lives in surprising and interesting ways. If you have enjoyed this series, I encourage you to support the small businesses in your area. That’s as simple as making a point to stop by. Regular, individual support – however small – is all they need! Small businesses support the livelihoods of the families who own them, they give us pride and personality in our communities. I challenge you to expand your default shopping route to include small businesses more often. By so doing, you preserve a variety of choices for yourself and your town in the future.
All the Pryde’s details:
Where is it? In Old Westport, 115 Westport Road, Kansas City, MO 65111
Where can I read more about them? Visit their website at www.prydeskitchen.com
I can’t find a certain kitchen item – will they have it? If they have seahorse cookie cutters, then I suspect they’ll have what you’re looking for. If not, you can call them at 1-800-531-5588 and they’ll be more than happy to help you find whatever it is you need!