By Emily Williams
On April 1, 1999, Wesley Lassen celebrated her first day as owner of The Cook Store in Mountain Brook Village, which has been in operation since the mid-1970s.
“The Cook Store is built around a great team of employees,” Lassen said. “We have a faithful group; everyone works as if the store were their own.”
This month, the Alabama Retail Association named The Cook Store one of its 2019 Alabama Retailers of the Year, in the category of retailers with annual sales under $1 million.
In addition, fellow Mountain Brook establishment Village Dermatology won in the category for annual sales from $1 million to $5 million.
Winners in all categories will be honored at the Alabama Retail Day luncheon Oct. 22.
The ARA has been dolling out Retailer of the Year awards since 1999, when Lassen took over The Cook Store. According to the organization, the purpose of the awards is to recognize Alabama businesses that have demonstrated growth, innovation and commitment to their communities.
Under Lassen’s leadership, The Cook Store has its own recipe for success: being a good neighbor.
“The Cook Store has withstood the test of time the same way good neighbors withstand the test of time,” Lassen said.
Lassen and her team choose to focus not so much on making the sale but on creating an experience for the customer that results in the right sale.
“We want each customer to leave with what they need, not just make a sale. Sometimes that means sending the customer to a fellow retailer,” she said.
When it comes to staffing the store, Lassen puts the focus on hiring sales associates who have strong connections to the surrounding communities.
“We often get to know generations of the same families,” Lassen said. “We believe that familiarity and automatic connections with neighbors has led to not only a growth in sales but a deep connection with the community.”
In addition, Lassen strives to maintain a good relationship with officials and business owners in the suburbs that surround the store, taking pride in the success and accomplishments of other businesses in the area, especially in the food scene.
“Of course, we love to cook food, eat food and talk about food at The Cook Store,” Lassen said. “We love to discuss local restaurants with our customers, especially those visiting from out of town. We are always curious to know where people choose to dine out, what they are cooking at home or what they are serving for holiday meals or special occasions.”
Earning a Retailer of the Year award is an honor for Lassen.
“I am proud of The Cook Store, thankful for a great team of employees and grateful to all of our customers who have become friends during these 20 years,” Lassen said. “I am also appreciative of the Alabama Retail Association’s efforts on behalf of local retailers. We are here to stay!”