Broadway Panhandler, a packed-to-the-rafters kitchen store that opened in Manhattan 40 years ago and is beloved by home cooks, celebrities and restaurant chefs, will close by the spring when its owner and founder, Norman Kornbleuth, retires.
“I’ve been in this business for 40 years,” Mr. Kornbleuth said on Thursday. “I’m now 72; my wife has health issues. It’s time.”
Mr. Kornbleuth said that his two daughters were not interested in running the business and that his efforts to sell the company fell through. He has yet to decide the date when the store will close its doors for good.
Outfitted with towers of industrial shelving overstuffed with pots, draped with gadgets and stacked with cookware, Broadway Panhandler has a customer base that includes the chef Jody Williams, who owns Buvette and is an owner of Via Carota, and the actors James Spader, Uma Thurman and Daniel Craig. Knives, a store specialty, are displayed in a rear corner, where Mr. Kornbleuth freely dispenses advice. He said he might open a small knife shop sometime after Broadway Panhandler closes.
Bill Telepan, the chef and an owner of Telepan on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, said the value of a store like Broadway Panhandler was that customers could depend on the expertise of staff members they saw all the time. “They know which kind of immersion blender is best for you,” he said.
For Ms. Williams, the store was a source of inspiration. “I would go in there and find a cocotte or some other cute item and make a certain dish because of it,” she said. “It’s our go-to source for a lot of things. They have everything.”
Mr. Kornbleuth said he was born into the kitchen equipment business. His father, Harry, started selling restaurant supplies in 1939. During World War II, with a contract from the United States Navy for food service materials, he opened Anchor Equipment. That evolved into a business that supplied hospitals, schools and other institutions. James Beard, an American culinary figure, was a customer, Norman Kornbleuth said, and bought heavy-duty aluminum pots.
Mr. Kornbleuth joined his father in the business in 1967 and opened Broadway Panhandler soon after. The store got its name from its first location, on Broadway in SoHo, where it opened in 1976. By 1995, escalating rents led to a move to Broome Street, and in 2006 the store finally relocated to Greenwich Village, on Eighth Street near Broadway.
“We were never just about housewares,” Mr. Kornbleuth said. “With my background, we could continue to sell equipment to restaurants.” He knew that restaurants wanted high quality and low prices, and understood that home cooks would appreciate the same: durable knives, for instance, and basic, heavy pots and pans that might not match the décor, but offered excellent conductivity.
“My first question is, ‘What do you like to cook?’ ” he said. “We can help tailor a purchase to suit a customer’s needs instead of just selling sets. We’re more traditional, with just one store. As independent stores disappear, people are going to remember them fondly.”
The chef David Waltuck, who is now at Élan in the Flatiron district, said he remembered shopping at Broadway Panhandler on Broome Street when he owned Chanterelle, in SoHo. “It’s a fun place to browse and they always seemed friendly, knowledgeable and passionate,” he said. “It makes me sad to see so many things like this disappear.”