Cooks of Crocus Hill owner Karl Benson is preparing to open the retailer’s fourth location. Photo by Eric Best

Cooks of Crocus Hill owner Karl Benson is preparing to open the retailer’s fourth location. Photo by Eric Best

Cooks of Crocus Hill comes to Minneapolis

The culinary school and kitchen retailer gets cooking in the North Loop.

The home chefs of the North Loop will be getting schooled this fall thanks to a new Cooks of Crocus Hill store in the neighborhood.

Owners Karl Benson and Marie Dwyer announced last winter that they were bringing their culinary school and kitchen retailer to the space last home to foods store Local D’Lish. The smaller, approximately 2,500-square-foot store, slated to open in September, will be a unique configuration catering to the condo owners and apartment dwellers of the up-and-coming neighborhood in downtown Minneapolis.

“Part of our desire is to, say, skew this assortment to what the neighborhood might be inclined to be curious about,” Benson told The Journal.

The 43-year-old Cooks of Crocus Hill, which hosts cooking classes and sells cookware, packaged foods and specialty ingredients, operates three stores on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue, Main Street in Stillwater and 50th & France in Edina. It also has two miniature store-within-a-stores in Kowalski’s Markets around the Twin Cities.

While Benson said they weren’t actively looking for a fourth store location, the North Loop space presented an opportunity to get inside a “food-forward neighborhood,” even if they weren’t sure about downtown’s retail chops.

“I think our hesitation was around the retail dynamic for the neighborhood. Is it really a retail destination? Are enough neighborhood folks shopping? Is there momentum on the retail side of things? The food side for sure is happening here,” he said.

The area’s already established retail scene appears to be improving. Last year, men’s clothing store Atmosfere opened a location below ElseWarehouse Apartments and lingerie shop Flirt Boutique opened around the corner from the ever-expanding MartinPatrick3 in the Colonial Warehouse building. Near the new Cooks of Crocus Hill space, menswear shop Askov Finlayson, The Foundry Home Goods and the recently relocated Roe Wolfe boutique also draw in shoppers.

Despite the hesitation, in just a few meetings Cooks of Crocus Hill had a new shop location.

“[That] usually takes us about 18 months to figure out. We’re not impulsive,” he said.

What did get them to open the store, Benson said, were the culinary destinations in the area, including those near their new corner at 1st & 2nd.

“If it weren’t for [The] Bachelor Farmer and Spoon and Stable we probably wouldn’t have given it serious consideration,” he said.

The area’s upscale dining options are also flourishing. In January the Dayton brothers opened a café and lunch stop in front of their main restaurant. One of the city’s most-anticipated restaurants, French-focused Brut, is also slated to open where Sapor Café was located on Washington Avenue. There are also two sushi restaurant concepts reportedly going in the former Origami building just down the block.

With the unique location, Benson and Dwyer are redefining the Cooks of Crocus Hill concept.

“Plunking ourselves here might inspire us to be open to new things,” he said.

North Loop residents can expect a store with greater packaged goods and specialty food items similar to the Kowalski’s locations, though more diverse, Benson said. On the school side, the shop will have more classes focused on the experience of cooking and tasting unique ingredients rather than hands-on technical skills. In keeping with its hip surroundings, Cooks of Crocus Hill will have a more modern design compared to other stores.

Cooks of Crocus Hill at 208 N. 1st St. will open around Labor Day with a soft opening the week before.

“If the dynamic on this little street continues to evolve then, heck, five years from now people will say ‘You’re geniuses. How in the hell did you think that up?’ Or five years from now people will say, ‘what the hell were you thinking?’” Benson said.