How does a boutique stay afloat these days? By telling customers to make their own stuff.

By Kerry H. Photography by Max Burkhalter March 3, 2014 Published in the March 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Alicia Cahill of the Kitchen Chick in Galveston

The Kitchen Chick 
528 23rd St.,

If you think opening up a brick-and-mortar boutique in the age of Amazon sounds about as insane as… well, launching a print magazine in the age of Amazon, you’re not alone. “I know,” says Alicia Cahill of the Kitchen Chick, amazed at her own chutzpah. “I just got the lease and I signed it!” She unleashed her transformative energy on the space in downtown Galveston; aprons became garlands, string lights popped from paper muffin cups, and weather-beaten ladders found new life as pot racks. The artfully designed store stocks high-quality Le Creuset cookware alongside a number of products you didn’t know you wanted: tear-free onion goggles, stainless steel drinking straws, and jalapeño corers, to name a few. 

And all those trophies in the corner? Those mark the many wins of her all-woman cook-off team, the Chili Belles. Maybe that air of culinary triumph is why Cahill’s customers kept asking her to host cooking classes, and why, as we speak, chef Mary Bass is teaching a passel of islanders how to make the perfect beer-battered fish tacos. (Hint: add green apples.) Cahill opened her shop in 2012; by 2013, she’d built an attached space with a kitchen, wraparound counter, and set of Kitchen Chick–branded aprons for teaching the basics of soups, pasta, kolaches, and whatever else her clientele wanted. “It was wild to think I was expanding in my first year,” says Cahill, “but people here love to eat, and they love to cook, and we really get along.”

Ren Mitchell of The Tinderbox in Midtown

The Tinderbox Craft Collective
3622 Main St., Suite B

“I come from a long line of makers,” says Ren Mitchell of The Tinderbox, “and I think there is a lost respect for where things come from.” She originally envisioned her venture as a workshop for arts-and-crafts types that would sell, on the side, a limited array of hand-made goods. When she opened in April, the Midtown space was halfway lined with long tables, ready for knitting and bookbinding and soap-making Houstonians. But the products themselves, all of them from Texas artists, proved so popular that she ended up pushing the tables to the back of the store, leaving the majority of space for display cases. Which isn’t to say she’s stopped helping Houstonians become conscious of the objects around them. “We just hosted a wedding shower and we made candles for the ceremony from scratch. The bride came back and said that it was a talking point throughout the ceremony: ‘There’s my candle!’, ‘There’s my candle!’” 

Today the shop functions much like a gallery, with distinct areas dedicated to Texas artists such as Galveston-based graffiti artist Gabriel Prusmack, who stencils photographed images of people and wildlife onto discarded car parts, and Austin-based Taylor Hart, who attaches crocheted animals to planks of wood and calls it “crochet taxidermy.” Occasionally the gallery comes alive; area artists come over and get to work at a light-filled table by the storefront. “There’s no reason you should be huddled over your kitchen counter,” says Mitchell. “Get out of your house and come over.” 

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