WHISK’D

This week’s featured business is Whisk’d – your one-stop-shop for quirky kitchen gadgets and a unique shopping experience. I got to sit down and visit with Diane Abbott, owner and operator of Whisk’d, and learn more about her charming, little store. From the moment you walk in, you can sense that this won’t be just another run-of-the-mill shopping experience—no, this one will be different.

When you enter the shop, you’ll be promptly greeted by Diane herself, as she not only owns the store, she is the sole operator as well. In addition to all the tedious, behind-the-scenes tasks of keeping the store running, she never fails to welcome each and every customer with a smile. Diane truly wants each person who walks in to have the best possible shopping experience they can have, whether or not they leave with an item from her store. If you’re looking for something specific, she’ll do everything in her power to help you find it—even if that means she has to order it for you. If you just want to browse, you can do that too! Any way you slice it (pun intended, haha), you’ll have a shopping experience like none other.

Whether you leave with a quirky kitchen tool, or you leave after having a great conversation, you will be blessed just by walking in! If you haven’t been by yet, I highly encourage you to go check it out. With graduation coming up and weddings all throughout the summer, it would be worth coming in to get some neat gift ideas! Tell Diane I sent you!

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your store:

 I was born here in Lubbock. I went to Mae Murfee, Haynes, Evans Junior, and Monterey High School. I graduated in the 70s, and went to Angelo State in San Angelo. I got a degree in business management and came back to Lubbock. Then, I went into accounting. I started at the Health Sciences Center, then I went to Goodwill Industries as a comptroller. I also worked for a cotton module equipment place. The next job was at Hillcrest Country Club as a comptroller out there. Then I did the books for Mustang Mobile homes. I would still be doing his books, but he moved to Goldthwaite. He said: “let’s take the corporate office to Goldthwaite,” and I thought, “I’m not moving from my hometown; my husband works here, and my dad lives here.” So, that left me without an accounting job.

I started another company called La-Di-Da Designs, and I have been doing these homemade designs for 10 years. They’re carried in stores across the U.S. The last rep I had was in the Dallas Market show. I’ve had a rep in Atlanta; I’ve also had one in Chicago and Las Vegas. At the time, it was big; it’s kind of dwindled down.

Some of Diane’s pieces from La-Di-Da designs.

In the fall of 2016, we went to Lafayette, Louisiana and it was a dreadful show. It was a Junior League show, and they had all this flooding in the summer and nobody had any money to spend. It was a long way for me to go, and on the way back, I told my husband that we’re way too old for this; driving somewhere, setting up a booth, so my husband said: “Let’s just open a store for La-Di-Da designs.”

When we got back, I started looking at retail space. I looked on Milwaukee before Milwaukee was as big as it is now. We also looked on Quaker, and then we drove by this place.  I decided to call the number, and the man answers and says: “Hi it’s Benny.” I said: “Hi, Benny, it’s Diane Abbott.” It was my friend Benny Nixon. He golfs with my husband–he’s been to our house for dinner. I said: “Do you own that shopping center by Firehouse?” He said: “Yeah.” I said: “Well, what about that space?” He said: “Meet me there, and I’ll show it to you.” We were just in the right place at the right time, and it was God’s blessing, of course.

Collier construction got involved with the process, and I told him that I wanted to think of a theme. I didn’t want it to look like Bed Bath & Beyond; I didn’t want wire shelving, so I said: “Let’s just do farmhouse shelving—a fixer-upper kind of thing.” Scott Collier said: “We’ve got barn wood from a barn that we dismantled in Hill Country, so I’ll just make all the walls with barn wood.” I was afraid that was a little too “log-cabin,” so we did a barn door, that wall (see pic below), and then I went to look for fixtures.

Barn door

See part of the barn wood wall on the left.

I went to antique stores and estate sales. I bought & stained pipe shelves from Lowe’s. A local guy made the farmhouse table; some of the pieces I had to have made. I bought a post office sorter from an antique store in Slaton, and Collier construction made the farmhouse sink.

I went to Market and looked at the houseware showroom, and started ordering things.  Everything came to our house before the store was ready. We opened in February on the windiest dustiest day you’ve ever seen. I had in here what I thought a kitchen store needed, and now, it has evolved into what the people want. Some people will come in and say: “Oh I have this thing, my grandmother had it before, and now it’s broken.” So, I just try to get them what they want. They probably couldn’t do that at bigger stores. There’s a huge customer service thing here because it’s just me. What people see is just me. I try to get to know them first and get a relationship with them before I get their business.

 If Gourmet Pantry would have still been in business, we wouldn’t have done it. They had been gone for 3 years at that point, and there wasn’t really anything in Lubbock that’s quirky and different and has things that nobody else is selling. It mind-boggled me to think: “Oh, I’m fixing to open a kitchen store.”

Luckily, I have a lovely husband, who’s also a CPA, so I have somebody to do the books every day. I don’t think I would have wanted to open a nuts-and-bolts place or something I wasn’t familiar with. I’m not a giant baker or cook, because I’d been sitting at a desk since I graduated from college working with numbers every single day. Who has time in the evening? Somebody should have really opened a store before me, but it was just a timing thing. It is hard work. It may look easy, but the ordering, the trying to figure out where to get things, takes a lot of work. I want good, quality things in my store.

God knows stuff before you see it. When you look back, that’s just the beauty of it. In accounting, I wasn’t around a lot of people. In the store, I try to spend 30-40 minutes with somebody. I’ve met a lot of people, even people that have cancer. I don’t know if that’s part of the reason why I’m here; I just like to listen. They’re only in here for a short period of time, so I want to know about them; they don’t want to hear about me unless they ask, and that’s fine! My heart breaks when I think that I’m not going to be able to see them again. I would like people to come back in and let me know how they’re doing.

When we first opened, I told my husband: “You’re not going to believe the stories I’m hearing- some are happy, some of them are sad. I even learned of a lady who had lost her son.” They can’t go into a bigger store and expect somebody to listen to them; that may be the only time they get out that day. I also really try to be non-judgmental. This store is for all of Lubbock and all the surrounding counties, no matter your income, no matter what. My daughter, who is a social worker, has taught me to not judge a book by its cover, love every single person, and don’t make them buy something if they don’t need it. Some people might say: “Oh, I like that, but it’s too expensive,” so sometimes I’ll just say: “I hate to say this, but you can maybe find a cheaper version somewhere else.” People just don’t get the customer service at other places, and they do at mine.

How long has your store been open?

A year and a couple months.

What’s something different about your store? 

If you’ll notice, when you get a price tag, all the pricing ends in $0.17. People have asked us about it. When I put the price tags on, I just hated double-zeros, and I do not like $0.99.  My husband and I got married on the 17th of May, so it’s coming up—20 years for us.  I just want to be quirky, not set in our ways, and very flexible. We always do military discounts, we do layaway if the people need it, and we do a lot of donations. We donate to the American Cancer Society, Meals on Wheels, and The Children’s Home.

With my husband being a CPA, I asked him: “Did we do okay?” The first year is hard on any business. He says: “You did great!” He projected sales based on the inventory that I bought in the fall, and we went over his projections; we did more than he projected. December was insane for Christmas, and I didn’t hire anybody. There were a lot of people, and it was just me, but it was a great first year!

 What inspired you to start this business?

Down in my heart, I did it because I love Lubbock so dadgum much. Also, there was a need; we just felt like Lubbock needed a kitchen store.

What is your favorite part about coming to work every day?

Everything. Usually, my day starts at home like 7:30 or 8, and that is spent ordering; I’m continuously ordering things. The surprise of the day is very unpredictable; you just never know. Sometimes, somebody might be here right at 10, and sometimes I sit here and think: “There’s nobody here yet, oh my gosh, it’s going to be so slow,” and then it’ll be the biggest day ever. It’s so different from accounting because, in accounting, you have projects to do all day long, but in this, you get to think outside the box. Thinking of creative ways to display something and not having to ask anybody for permission is nice—that was hard to get used to. I love every bit of coming into work, and I also love Sundays—the day that I go to church and relax. I’ve been a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church since I was born.

Do you have any hidden talents or other hobbies?

 The craft thing–I don’t know why my brain is very black and white in the accounting world, but then I can create off-the-wall things. I have a kiln at home, and I do black and white checkered things. I love doing that stuff.

 What’s your favorite restaurant in Lubbock?

Chick-fil-A

If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?

My daughter lives in Brooklyn, so I would go see her. She got a degree from Columbia and stayed and got a job there. If I’m going to go close the store and go somewhere, I’m going to make it worth my while, so I would go see her.

We’ve already been to Paris and London together. She got a degree in French as well, so she did study abroad in Paris in the summer. After we put her on the plane, I realized I missed her so much, so my husband said: “then go see her.” So, I took off 3 weeks, flew to Paris, and picked her up when she was finished. Then, we flew to London, Munich, and down to Athens and Milan. Spending three weeks with your child is something that may not happen again. It made for good memories!

 What is your favorite college sports team?

Texas Tech!

What’s your favorite kitchen gadget?

An adjustable rolling pin it has different widths. You can take the pieces off and screw the other ones back on, and then your pastries will be even. These are selling out like crazy. I have one more favorite–Pizza scissors– they won’t scratch your metal pan or anything. They’re from a company called Dream Farm.  I demonstrated them on Good Day Lubbock back when I started.  I told them their Pizza scissors were on TV in Lubbock, and that I needed some more, so they over-nighted some to me. I like them because they’re different and quirky.

Adjustable rolling pin

Pizza scissors–too cool!