The images have circulated regularly since the nonprofit Kitchen Angels was founded in 1992: Happy hair-netted volunteers stirring massive pots of food, smiling drivers loading cooler bags full of meals into cars to deliver to their homebound neighbors, folks in angel wings hosting the annual Angel's Night Out restaurant fundraiser.
Kitchen Angels has always been one of Santa Fe's favorite nonprofits, and the thousands of people fed by its meal-delivery services (it delivered its millionth meal in 2015) agree that it's a vital service.
It would make sense, then, that when you have extra kitchen gadgets, you'd donate them to Kitchen Angels. Food volunteers are the best ones to figure out what to do with extra kitchen ephemera, right?
Enter Sarah Taylor and Jill Markstein, two long-time Kitchen Angels volunteers who also happen to have backgrounds in kitchen and home retail. (Taylor owned a specialty shop in California, and Markstein owned The Marketplace on West Alameda, before she sold it and it became La Montañita Co-op). Three or four years ago, they were musing with Kitchen Angels Executive Director Tony McCarty about what else they could do with all the food-related stuff they were constantly acquiring.
"People used to donate things to Kitchen Angels that they thought we could use in the kitchen—which, in most cases, wasn't the fact," Taylor says, "because they weren't big enough or weren't up to code for the health department." They also were always getting linens, fancy dishes and serving accessories—possibly for the occasional volunteer dinners the nonprofit hosts. "Somewhere along the line," Taylor continues, "Tony, Jill and I were thinking, 'This could turn into something more profitable for Kitchen Angels.'"
And thus, Kitchenality was born at 1222 Siler Road (in the Kitchen Angels building, 471-7780). The shop opened in December 2015, and it's been full-steam-ahead since even before the cash registers officially opened.
The store's opening was delayed by paperwork, so volunteers were amassing, sorting and tagging donations even before Kitchenality technically existed. Once open, there was the occasional worry that donations could dwindle—but those fears have been dashed. There is a constant stream of Santa Feans downsizing, moving, or who are breaking down second homes or vacation rentals. "We get donations every day," Markstein says. "People are so generous."
"So much of it is brand-new that people must have been gifted and didn't use," Taylor says. "We really work at polishing and cleaning and presenting everything in its best light." (The day SFR visited, someone snagged a sparkling KitchenAid stand mixer for a fraction of its original big-ticket price. Those things are coveted!)
"We have microwaves, toaster ovens, all the coffee things, beautiful old Mexican pieces; we get a lot of collectibles in also," Markstein says. "There is a $2 bread pan up to the $200 crystal."
Even folks who fear the kitchen can find hostess gifts, serving platters (you've served store-bought cookies before, right? Put them on something pretty, for cryin' out loud), table linens and other fun tchotchkes. And, when you break it all down, you're doing the right thing.
"It's the joy of buying something and knowing that you're feeding someone at the same time," McCarty says. In 2017, proceeds from Kitchenality (which is essentially run without overhead—it's all via donations and volunteers) brought in enough funds to feed 88 Santa Feans for an entire year. Furthermore, Kitchenality is often called upon to help provide for folks who are rebuilding after a house fire, fleeing domestic abuse or similar situations, and can always supply what's needed.
And, to make your life easier, the folks who work Kitchenality even know what they're talking about. "We know what most of the stuff is," Taylor says.
"And we love it!" Markstein chimes in. "It's all about food, and feeding people, and providing for people."