A memory: the shady kitchen in a summer rental house in Wellfleet, cavernous — not due to size but to a feeling of emptiness. A single large knife faces off with an onion. The knife doesn’t cut the onion so much as it compresses it, denting it into submission.
Dennis Lemenager, owner of Utilities Home Store in Provincetown, says everyone with a kitchen should own three things: “A really great chef’s knife, a microplane grater, and a Dutch oven or a ceramic-coated frying pan.” He’s certainly in a position to dispense wisdom — he’s been selecting items for his shop for 22 years.
He thinks for a moment about his stock, then says, “I like to sell things that people need to complete a project or to make life easier.” But he chooses what he does for another reason, too.
His own favorite kitchen item is his Le Creuset Dutch oven, which he uses often — in winter, a Bolognese sauce simmers in it on the stovetop; in summer, it holds a braising chicken. “It’s a combination of beauty and effectiveness” that he loves. “It’s important to have things that are useful and beautiful,” he says.
“Of course, sometimes you just need a can opener and that’s fine,” says Lemenager. And sometimes a Utilities customer needs something but doesn’t know what it is.
“We get a lot of requests that begin with ‘My grandmother used to have…’ ” he says. Somebody might describe a small fork with two prongs that Grandma used to turn meat with. Lemenager likes it when he can help them find, in some corner of the store, the exact tool: a “granny fork.”
For tool-seekers in Wellfleet, there’s a new spot, opened in May: Tazza Kitchenware & Pantry on Main Street. Sarah and Molly Pechukas, mother and daughter, say having a kitchen store has long been a dream of theirs, something they wanted to do together.
They stock kitchen tools alongside an array of gourmet items like spices, cheese, chocolate, and pasta. It’s a family business in more ways than one — family time revolved around sitting down to meals, Sarah says. It’s those good times they hope define the spirit of the place.
They’re both avid cooks. In college, Sarah was a sous chef at Aesop’s Tables. In 2004, she started her own business, Sweetbriar Realty, now part of William Raveis. But Sarah says Molly is the one who’s gifted with an instinct for combining flavors.
Molly graduated from Nauset High School in 2011, then went to Tulane University and stayed in New Orleans until the pandemic brought her back home. She’s happy to have the chance to make Tazza a reality.
Their best-selling items? “Bowl covers,” the two women chorus. The bowl covers are fabric with an elastic edge. “We’re trying to sell things that are sustainably made and that are ‘small business,’ ” Sarah says. The store features items by makers from New Orleans to Italy. Against one wall is a collection of chef’s knives made by Han Salm, a local blacksmith, bladesmith, and woodworker.
Shoppers also come for cheese, Sarah says. Everybody wants Meredith Dairy’s Sheep & Goat Cheese.
Sarah’s favorite kitchen item is a garlic smasher. There’s one displayed in the center of the store: a small wooden thing resembling a fat mushroom. “You take it, and you smash your garlic clove, and the outside just pops off,” she says. “I got one as a gift 30 years ago, and I still use it every day.” The smashing, Molly adds, is “built-in catharsis.”
What Molly loves about cooking is the way one ingredient can lead the imagination to an idea for a meal. Working in the store, she says, she loves watching other people think about the pleasures of the kitchen: they see a good chef’s knife behind a glass case, imagine slicing through an onion, and dinner takes shape in their minds.