Dona Halbert's grandmother taught her to cook when she was 6.
Her first project – a glazed cake – was not a success.
“I can still remember my dad taking a bite, grabbing his glass of iced tea to wash it down and laughing,” she said. “I had overloaded salt apparently, but it did look pretty.”
Mrs. Halbert, 54, of Tyler, still enjoys cooking but doesn't consider herself a gourmet-style cook.
“I tend to cook more foods that would be comfort food or homestyle,” she said, adding that her husband is a picky eater. “I almost always bake some type of sweets on a weekly basis. ... I believe anyone can cook or bake, and it is simply a matter of learning what you have a natural touch for as well as what you enjoy.”
After years of working in the medical field and being a stay-at-home mom, Mrs. Halbert opened Kitchen Drawer in Tyler more than five years ago.
“We have professional chefs who come to us,” Mrs. Halbert said, adding that she is one of the few places in town where people can find a 13-inch flan/tart pan with a removable bottom. “We offer those things that you may not use every single day, but will need if you're serious about cooking or love to cook.”
She worked in the medical field until she decided to be a stay-at-home mom with her son. When she was ready to go back to work, she decided she didn't want to return to the medical industry, and one day came home and told her husband she had found a place to open a kitchen store.
Mrs. Halbert and her husband of 32 years, Kevin Halbert, have one son, Kerry, 24. Her husband is in the oil and gas business. He has worked as a landman, a partner in a land services firm and now runs the family businesses.
She opened Kitchen Drawer in Bergfeld Center on Oct. 10, 2007. She said it was a great location to start a business because the retail center is filled with smaller boutique-type shops and well-established businesses.
Kitchen Drawer offers “basically everything intrinsic to getting food prepared and on the table,” Mrs. Halbert said. The store sells serving pieces, pots, pans, baking sheets and other cookware, as well as specialty items and an assortment of kitchen gadgets.
Mrs. Halbert said her No. 1 seller has been the four-blade Chop Stir, used to break up ground meat or sausage, which sells for $6.50. Other popular items are the Corkcicle, which is frozen before putting in a wine bottle to chill it from the inside; the fruit infusion pitcher made to use flavored water or tea; and the USA and Nordic Ware brand pans.
Mrs. Halbert said if they don't have an item someone is searching for, they will go out of their way to help them find it at another local store.
“Our customer service – that's what we focus on,” she said.
Construction on the new 1,863-square-foot building in Swann's Plaza started Jan. 5, and she expects the business to open there by the end of March. She said her store in Bergfeld Center will be closed by March 1.
Mrs. Halbert said the move will allow her to double her space and include a demo kitchen, where cooking demonstrations will be offered. Instead of cooking classes, participants will watch someone else teach them to cook something without getting their hands dirty. She is also thinking about offering recipe rehab seminars, in which customers bring their recipes to be rehabbed and made healthier. Vendors will also be giving demonstrations of products.
Don's TV and Appliance is providing Kitchen Aid appliances for the demo kitchen. “We are thrilled to be able to work with them as they are a local independent business much like ourselves,” Mrs. Halbert said.
She said the expanded space also will allow her to bring in more lines of products she can only do special orders for now, as well as add more knives, cookware, pots and pans and other lines they have wanted to offer but for which they didn't have the room. Kitchen Drawer also will have a bridal and gift registry and is working on a website.
Mrs. Halbert has four employees, including store manager Chelsey English.
Ms. English has worked at Kitchen Drawer for four years and said Mrs. Halbert came up with the perfect tagline for the business – “necessities and niceties for every occasion.”
“It is the necessities we carry, but also the niceties – all the decorative things,” she said.