FACETIME- Happy Cook: Gadget-lover whips up bigger store

Monique Moshier

Expanding a retail store during a grim economy isn't necessarily the first step many business owners would take.

Not so Monique Moshier, whose 30-plus-year-old business is older than she is.

Moshier, 29, bought a popular cookware shop in the tiny space on the island in Barracks Road Shopping Center four years ago, and almost immediately began eyeing a larger space. When one turned up across the street, she signed the lease, and in May she moved into a 2,200-square-foot storefront– almost three times the old Happy Cook's 800 square feet.

Moshier is bold– and hardly a retail novice. Her parents owned a bookstore in Riverside, California.

"I've had on-the-job training from age three," she says. Still, retail wasn't her first choice.

"In high school, I was debating science or culinary school because I always enjoyed cooking," says Moshier, the class valedictorian whose counselors, she says pushed her away from cooking school.

She took the equestrienne track instead and went to Sweet Briar, where she also studied biochemistry and molecular biology. She moved to the Charlottesville area and worked in the virology department at UVA on cold studies. 

"I got a part-time job here because I love to cook," says Moshier. That was in 2002. 

When she tried to get a loan to buy the store in 2005, banks said it was way risky. "You silly little girl," she remembers hearing. "You want to own a kitchen store."

When Moshier took over, she decided to focus on serious kitchen tools.

"If someone cooks and they come in and asks for it, we should have it, even if we only sell a couple a year," she says. In the tiny original store, she cut back on decorative items and stocked up the cookware, bakeware, and implements ( "I love gadgets," she enthuses). 

Now that she has more room, she's adding more space-hogging items like imported dishware– including Polish pottery and Italian ceramics.

So, in a store of kitchen stuff, what's the essential tool?

"A really good knife," advises Moshier, "because a good sharp knife makes a world of difference. It's multi-purpose."

As for Happy Cook founder Jean Carswell, though she hasn't yet seen the new space, she says she's pleased with Moshier. "She brings a lot of intelligence and commitment to the business," says Carswell.

Moshier expected that sales for May, the month she moved, to be down. But that didn't happen. "People love to cook, and even when they're cutting down on eating out, people still cook," she hypothesizes.

Whatever the reason, it works for Moshier. "This is so my cup of tea," she enthuses.