By Craig Smith
Shackford’s Kitchen Store reopened in December, about 50 steps south of its original location – same side of the street, same block. Longtime customers have been pleased to find that Shackford’s is still a quality kitchen store, and are delighted to see the strong emphasis on a working kitchen.
And owner Patrick Merkley, he’s having more fun than he’s ever had.
“The whole store is only 2,000 square feet, instead of the old 4,000, and about a third of that is our commercial kitchen. Come by any Saturday afternoon, and somebody will be cooking,” he said. If you do stop in the store, you’ll likely be offered an hors d’oeuvres to sample, maybe with a splash to wash it down. And just like at a party in a friend’s home, you’ll be inclined to linger in the kitchen, talking to and laughing with other assembled guests. Depending on what’s going on that day, you might even find yourself at a cutting board, slicing and dicing. Folks from the Farmers Market, many who sell products at Shackford’s, might also be cooking – showing off how best to use their produce. Currently, the lineup at Shackford’s includes products from Napa Baking Company, JamAlula, Naysayer Coffee Roasters, Salute Santé Grapeseed Oil, GGIF, and of course, Shackford’s Honey.
Patrick’s wife, Alix, is running the retail component of the store. She, too, loves the new space. “The entire store front is windows that open to the street. It’s open, airy, light – a nice, warm atmosphere.”
Make no mistake – Shackford’s is still a kitchen store, and the place to find quality products and advice. “We won’t carry products that you can find broadly at the big retail stores. We’re focusing on quality and function.” Patrick knows his way around a kitchen, and can help customers choose the right products for their needs. “We held a class in December and taught folks how to cook a turkey in a clay pot, using products that are proven and that we offer.” During that class, Patrick took it a step further, “There were a number of younger people, younger than me, in the class who had never carved a turkey. So we showed them how to do that as well.”
Patrick sees the kitchen as being a hub for all levels of cooks and chefs – professionals, cooking enthusiasts, bakers and home chefs. “That’s the way it’s always been at Shackford’s. One day, you could meet bakers buying cake boxes, or home cooks, CIA students or French Laundry/ Michelin starred chefs.”
The kitchen is available in a number of ways. If you want to host a small party there, Patrick will prepare the meal. If you’d prefer, you and your guests can take a class and do the cooking. Or, you can sign up for any of the classes Shackford’s offers, either bringing your own group or joining others. Merkley also caters dinners, and will do a couple hundred this year. Design your menu yourself, with Patrick’s help, or just give him a budget and guidelines and leave it up to him. “Since COVID subsided, we’ve been slammed with catering,” he said. He says it with the smile of a man who is clearly enjoying himself.
Patrick said that if he was college-aged now, he would study to become a chef. “You just didn’t do that when I was growing up. My choices were pretty simple: follow in the family tradition and join SFPD or get a professional job. At the time, if I’d told my dad I was going to be a chef, I would have been in the next recruit class!” Instead, he studied international business and political science, and had a very successful career. “I traveled internationally about 60% of the time, staying on the road for three weeks at a time. When I came home, I’d cook.” He actually owned a couple of catering businesses along the way. Towards the end of his business career, he was more and more into cooking. “I’d attend these big business dinners and would invariably end up in the kitchen talking to the chefs, not at the table talking to clients.”
He and Alix moved to Napa thirty years ago, and visited Shackford’s on one of their first weekends here. “I knew that is what I wanted to do,” he said. “I told Mr. Shackford that when I retired, I wanted to buy the store.” The two men actually talked about just that over the following years. “I told him some of the things I would do differently and some of the changes that were required, really kind of asking his permission. When we took over the store, I made the changes I had discussed with Mr. Shackford.”
Shackford’s “Come by any Saturday afternoon, and somebody will be cooking.
The whole store is only 2,000 square feet and about a third of that is our commercial kitchen.”
Patrick and Alix bought the store in 2019. As with any new venture, it was hard at first, as he expected it would be. By their fourth quarter, the operation was profitable. “Even though Shackford’s had been around for thirty years, it was a new business for me. Then we were hit with COVID, fires, and supply chain issues. We were still committed to putting in the kitchen for our culinary operation, but the old space provided a number of hurdles we would have to overcome to pull it off.” By 2021 they realized that they needed to make changes, and so they closed the previous location. That’s when they were approached by the Wiseman Company, suggesting that Shackford’s make the move to their building.
“They own the building down the street at 1300 Main, and had a space. They knew Shackford’s was important to the community and that everyone missed Shackford’s. They wanted to know what it would take to bring the store back. I can’t believe how helpful they were in creating a win-win situation for both of us. Even company founder, Doyle Wiseman, got involved. They deserve immense credit for bringing Shackford’s back.”
Physically, the move was a small one from the old corner location, but it feels completely different. “There is so much community energy here,” said Alix. “From the Q across the street, to Barnhouse Napa, Housley Wines, Azzurro Pizzeria, Color Theory Art Supplies, Shine Hair Salon, The Collective and of course, Louie and the furniture store. It’s a very vibrant neighborhood.”
Call Shackford’s at 707-501-7119 or check them out on Instagram: @shackfordskitchen. Interested in taking a class or bringing your group to Shackford’s? Visit shackfordsnapavalley.com for a list of classes and activities. Better yet, stop by – who knows what will be going on?
For more info in taking a class or bringing your group to Shackford’s. shackfordsnapavalley.com | 707-501-7119