I’m not a big fan of shopping in the first place. I find most stores lack enough air exchange to avoid claustrophobia, and none of them have enough daylight to tolerate enclosure very long.
I’ll make exceptions in a few cases: fabric shops, office supply shops, scrapbook shops, and restaurant supply shops. I think I find these places soothing because overall, there is a certain amount of organization and coordinated grouping I find very pleasing. They’re also not “mega marts” designed to keep me trapped in the aisles for days. I can make a targeted shopping flyover, and be out before the claustrophobia sets in.
Part of me thinks that trendy, colorful dishes are So Darn Nifty. We’ve gone that route, though, and in the price-point we prefer to revolve, the choices are just not sturdy enough for daily family use. Add the Need for Sturdy to my own quirk of needing visual cohesiveness, and it turns out, the restaurant supply shop is my favorite place in the world. Everything is designed to tolerate heavy use, occasional drops, hot water, being left in the oven… it’s so cool!
We have a great local supply shop down by the river: Rush’s Kitchen Supply.
Years ago, we moved from the “disposable” (translate: highly fragile) drinking glasses from departments stores to the amazing clear polycarbonate tumblers designed for restaurants. A set of 24 kept us going strong for nearly nine years. That’s not nine years of gentle Sunday use; that’s nine years of daily drinks, dishwashers, being dropped, stepped on, up-ended and stood upon by tippy-toe cookie-thieving toddlers trying to reach the countertop, making mud pies and snow castles in the yard, being marooned in said mud or snow until the change of seasons, constant use in bathtubs to rinse out the shampoo… active use. Nine years.And though we’d lost a few to cracking (after nearly a decade), the majority were standing strong, and still clear and unscathed, with the only maintenance being a yearly dip in vinegar to remove the mineral deposits from our local hard water.
We replaced a few tumblers, added some tiny 4 ounce tumblers in the same style for the Youngest, and a few larger tumblers for sweet tea, which my Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal Husband really enjoys (being descended from my Southern Mother-in-Law, who is wonderful.) The visual calm in my cup cupboard is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
Other things we find less expensive to buy in commercial quality:
Plates! Heavy stoneware, in creamy natural or crisp white, multiple sizes, and multiple shapes, too. We’ve replaced our “pretty but deadly weak” plates with cream ovals… and these puppies can go into the oven, to 350*, too, which makes Nacho Night a highly customized experience, very easily.
Bowls! Again, available in multiple sizes and shapes, cream or white. Mugs! Cute little ramekins for dips and sauces! Heavy, non-warping cutting boards in a variety of sizes, starting around $3. Cooking utensils of all kinds, really top quality (and interesting) baking pans… I’ve been so pleased with the quality that I find myself constantly recommending restaurant supply stores to those setting up a household.
Two more things are my “Fravrits”, when discussing these shops: first, everything tends to be open stock, so if I do break one bowl, I can buy one bowl and have it match the others, year after year; and second, that many shops give a discount when you hit “bulk” quantities, often as low as a dozen to qualify! When we did replace a dozen each tumblers, bowls, plates, mugs, and a few assorted tools and nice bits, we spent $100, for a twelve-place setting of nearly indestructible dishes.
I am very happy.