Islanders show the love to Kitchen Market

After the fire that destroyed her Mercer Island location, founder/CEO Stephanie King shares how Islanders can continue to support her business.

By Ella Will, For the Reporter

On Dec. 7, 2023, Stephanie King got a call that it smelled like smoke in Kitchen & Market’s Tabit Village Square location in Mercer Island.

At first, she didn’t think much of it — that it would just be a “small mess to cleanup,” she said.

Within 10 minutes, the entire building was up in flames.

“The fire brought lots of tears, lots of ‘I don’t understand,’ and a good sense of disbelief,” said King, founder and CEO.

The most substantial impact of the fire was on the store’s production volume, King said. Kitchen & Market’s food is all made from scratch at their commissary and they don’t outsource any meals. Their commissary lost about 45% of its production volume overnight. Immediately after the fire, Islanders stepped up to support Kitchen & Market. Regular shoppers diverted to the store’s location in Medina.

“It was so amazing when the Mercer Island community rallied together and went to our other locations,” King said. “Right now, we are just trying to keep our sales up until their Madison Valley location opens.”

King said Kitchen & Market’s shoppers have been supportive on social media — and with lots of hugs. She still wants to get the word out about Kitchen & Market’s delivery service, brought back to Mercer Island after the fire, because she knows it can be difficult for some people to visit the Pike Place or Medina locations, King said. On Tuesdays and Fridays, Kitchen & Market offers “all of our online meal kits, some grab-and-go meals, and samplings of our breakfast items and desserts,” King said.

Kitchen & Market has not yet found a new location on Mercer Island, but King said she will jump on the opportunity for a long-term lease on the North End as soon as it comes.

’The love from Mercer Island’

King has always loved cooking and eating. She came up with the idea for the store after the “grocery shopping rage” she always felt when she made dinner for her family of five, always trying to figure out how to make something quick and delicious that fits her busy schedule.

With a background in private label grocers (Kroger, Whole Foods, etc.), King said she knew what she wanted when deciding to pursue her own business: a small corner grocery store that made dinner “easier, tastier and more fun.”

“Kitchen & Market is here to help, regardless of how comfortable you are in the kitchen. Whether you’re an amazing home cook or just heating up a pre-made meal, we can help you get dinner on the table,” King said.

King, a Mercer Island resident, said she loved shopping at Kitchen & Market’s location in Tabit Village Square, finding the most joy in getting to engage, chat and share her passion with the other customers, especially because Mercer Island is such a close and supportive community, King said.

“I was happy when I would go into my store to shop and run into tons of people I know or haven’t connected with in years. Having a store on Mercer Island is like going to a local bar or a get-together with friends,” King said.

King’s favorite items she sells at Kitchen & Market are her sauces, but picking just one item is like “choosing children,” she said. The store offers a variety of options, from produce to meals made from scratch.

One and a half months before the fire, Kitchen & Market had just celebrated their first anniversary in the Mercer Island location. King said the Mercer Island location was a chance for Kitchen & Market to test how well-received the store would be, especially because there are already other grocery stores in Town Center.

“It was an opportunity for us to dip our toes in the water and see how well we would be received,” King said.

When Kitchen & Market launched a meal kit pop-up during the pandemic, the business started using only King’s email. Hence, it mostly went to other moms on Mercer Island, King said. Kitchen & Market developed a customer base solely from word-of-mouth — they didn’t need to do much marketing before opening the Mercer Island store because “the customers did it for us,” King said. The Mercer Island location was Kitchen & Market’s best-performing store.

“The love from Mercer Island proved to us overnight that we wanted to stay here forever,” King said.

Kitchen & Market does most of its marketing through social media, primarily Instagram. They also put up signs and send mailers throughout the neighborhoods. Islanders who frequent the Madison Valley neighborhood of Seattle can expect a new Kitchen & Market location in the old Village Mart on East Madison Street, across from Cafe Flora.