In 1973, Martha Kaemmer and her sister Mary Rice thought that the time was ripe for a culinary awakening. Cooks was born in a 1,500-square-foot storefront at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Lexington Parkway, in St. Paul. There were four employees and approximately 250 different items for sale. Mary left a year later to pursue a new culinary journey in Bayfield, WI. Martha carried the company forward for more than 30 years.
We’ve moved twice. Added 4 more locations — closed two. We had 15 shops inside Marshall Fields (Dayton’s) we gave them up when Macy’s took over. We’ve had Partnerships, we’ve had Collaborations. We’ve grown — we’ve contracted. Like all small businesses, we’ve been on an interesting adventure.
In the Spring of 2020, we did a Bellecour Bakery Pop-up with our friend Gavin Kaysen — Chef/Owner of Spoon and Stable, across the street from our store in North Loop. Pop overs became a Pop-Up became a full-blown Partnership. In August of 2021, The Bellecour Bakery became an integral element of our culinary program.
In 2023, we formalized our partnership and we evolved our name to become Cooks | Bellecour. We have three locations all with amazing bakeries, state-of-the-art cooking schools and retail culinary shops that are second to none. Our experiences are warm, inviting and immersive, we have a growing presence on the web and we are constantly working to improve our offering.
We employ well over 100 people and our schools rely on the services of another 20. Our inventory has grown to include more than 6,000 innovative culinary items. We offer a huge assortment of instruction and educational opportunities and we’re always trying to help people with their culinary journey. Though she remained an active member of our Board, Martha retired in December of 2007. She passed away in 2018, and we miss her warm and embracing spirit every single day. We are steadfast in our commitment to her desire for Cooks | Bellecour to be a welcoming place for sharing discoveries about food.
So, that’s where we are today, 2 active families, plenty of dogs and sports, a large extended “family” and a couple of very well enjoyed kitchens. Sharing discoveries at every turn.
We don’t just say that “Life happens in the Kitchen” – we live it.
— Marie, Karl and Gavin