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For chefs and party hosts: R.I. restaurant owners’ new kitchen goods store specializes in hard-to-find products

“It’s really a store that has something for the front and back of house,” said Anna Burnley, the co-owner of Utility in Middletown, R.I.

Utility is a new kitchen goods store in Middletown, R.I. where function meets aesthetics.Utility

Anna Burnley did not want to open another restaurant.

With Aquidneck Island’s Mission and Thames Street Kitchen under her belt, she and her co-owners — husband Tyler and business partner Chad Hoffer — wanted to dip their toes into the retail world, and offer locals a space where they could buy the products restaurateurs were constantly searching for.

This summer, they opened Utility in a space where they’ve held pop-ups in for years. It’s a kitchen goods store where function and aesthetics collide. As trained chefs, Tyler Burnley and Hoffer wanted to sell an array of professional knives and other equipment. Anna Burnley wanted to locals to have a place to get the essentials of hosting a dinner party or holiday at home — like unique candle sticks for the tablescape, brightly colored bowls, ceramic dishes, jarred goods, and tinned fish.


Utility is owned by the MIssion Group, which operates the Mission and Thames Street Kitchen restaurants.Utility

”It’s really a store that has something for the front and back of house,” she said.

This week, Utility opened its e-commerce store, and is now shipping anywhere in the United States.

Burnley explained that the crew thinks of themselves as the “anti-Amazon” store. They spend a lot of time vetting products and brands that are difficult to get elsewhere — whether it’s because a brand doesn’t have it’s own e-commerce platform, or because they aren’t mass produced for Amazon and big box stores.

”We want to highlight brands with the same ethos as us, and not just open a brick and mortar full of stuff you can buy online,” she said.

She points to one example: Dusen Dusen, where Brooklyn-based designer Ellen Van Dusen creates one-of-a-kind salt and pepper grinders made out of beech wood, and colorful contrasting napkins.

”There are so many great small businesses out there that are unheard of, and here’s a way to introduce them to Aquidneck Island,” said Burnley, who explained they are selling items from artisans in Rhode Island and as far away as Hawaii.


Each Monday, Utility hosts a “Sip and Shop” pop-up with a local chef or other vendor, where shoppers can enjoy a beverage and get 10 percent off their purchases. In December, they’ll host a fancy gift-wrapping pop-up with a caviar purveyor.

Utility will soon be offering wedding registries to their services.Utility

The shop also offers knife sharpening services (for $10 per knife), where the turnaround time is around 48 hours. In two weeks, they’ll begin selling 12 different holiday gift baskets that will range in price from $50 to $400 per basket. Some will be geared to hosts, and others for the home — or professional — chef, she said.

As stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Lord & Taylor are closing all over the region, Burnley said she’s received “countless” requests to offer engaged couples the option of registering at the store. It’s another service they’ll be rolling out after the holidays.

This story first appeared in Globe Rhode Island’s Food & Dining newsletter, a free weekly email about Rhode Island’s restaurant industry that also contains information about local events, Q&As with chefs, dining guides, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail each Thursday, you can sign up here.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.