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Shop Like a Chef: Dean Supply

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Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table are fine stores if you are looking for kitchenware for your home, but for many avid home cooks in Cleveland, the selection and prices at Dean Supply (3500 Woodland Ave., 216-771-3300, shopatdean.com) far surpass the mall-style shopping experience.

Many restaurant supply stores are independently owned, freestanding and off the beaten path – and Dean Supply is no exception. To find the warehouse-style store, which is near the complex of buildings that make up the Orange Avenue Post Office, look for the large, beautiful mural on the side of the building.

Dean Supply has been serving customers for more than 60 years. Started in 1950 by DeSatnik brothers Sam, Lou and Abe, the original storefront on Carnegie offered everything from paper products to janitorial supplies, from cleaning products to closeout china. In 1973, that location burned to the ground, but the community rallied to help the brothers rebuild at a new location on Euclid. By 2001, the need to expand the business to larger digs became clear, and it was relocated to its current location on Woodland.

Among the approximately 50 employees is Michael DeSatnik, grandson to one of the founding brothers. He says he's continually amazed by the variety and scale of the operations at the 18,000-square-foot shop, which stocks a staggering 33,000 products. "We're just missing the fancy packaging," he says in reference to those pricey kitchenware stores. In 2009, Dean launched a comprehensive website that enables customers near and far to purchase most of the inventory without ever leaving home. "It makes for a fun, interesting place to work," Michael says of the assortment as we pass racks of sturdy rocks glasses going for $2.25 apiece and beautiful wine glasses selling for just $2.49.

While Dean is regularly and heavily utilized by chefs and others in the foodservice industry – "I shop at Dean Supply; great guys," says chef Dante Boccuzzi – Michael estimates that as many as 40 to 50 percent of the shop's steady customers are non-pros. Sure, the aisles are filled with beefy commercial fridges and ranges, concessions equipment like industrial-size popcorn makers and deli counter meat slicers, but there are thousands of smaller items that would fit well in any home kitchen – from barware to cookie sheets. The tableware and china portion of the store alone is massive, focusing on sturdy, restaurant-grade dishes of every size and shape. Need a ramekin? Choose from dozens of sizes priced as low as 60 cents each. Stacks of colorful Fiestaware (still made in the USA) are available as well. Dean also is the best party supply store around, with disposable plates and serving platters, aluminum foil pans, sleeves of cups, plastic bowls, cases of soda, crepe paper, cutlery and napkins.

While Dean might not be the best place to buy a home blender – unless you're in the market for a high-quality Vita-Mix – it is the best place to score cast-iron skillets, mixing bowls, baking sheets, cutting boards, pizza peels, oven mitts and chef's knives for much less than what's charged at a regular store. What's more, that money is going not to a faceless national chain, but to local employees and, ultimately, back into the Cleveland community. And the personal service offered here is impressive, with staffers dedicated to finding whatever it is you need and want as quickly and efficiently as possible. Try getting help like that at Target.

Dean Supply is open Monday – Friday

8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday 9-4.

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