Good Kinsmen on Chattanooga’s North Shore has what you need for fine dining at home

Photography by Matt Hamilton / Vicki Lawrenson and her son, Sean, at the Good Kinsmen on the North Shore.

Last year's holiday shopping season was the first for Good Kinsmen and an eye-popper for Sean Lawrenson, the store's co-owner.

"We were crazy busy," says Lawrenson, who opened the Cherokee Boulevard business with his mother, Vicki Lawrenson, 13 months ago. "We had a line out the door at one point."

Per its website, Good Kinsmen "features a carefully curated collection of kitchen goods and tableware." Sean recalls holiday shoppers from last year who wanted to build cooking-show-caliber kitchens in one trip.

"We had some folks come in who said they'd never cooked before but wanted to buy everything they'd need -- which is a lot," he says. "I'd say, 'Let's start small -- a roaster, cutting board, chef's knife, serving plate.'

"Two things I learned were that higher-end cutting boards are popular gifts," he adds, "and 80% of people who come (for dishware) want white -- no other color."

Vicki says she retired in 2020, two years after relocating to Chattanooga from Montgomery, Alabama.

"I traveled a lot (in my job) to hospitals and senior-care facilities," she says. "For years, Chattanooga was kind of my in-between stop. I used to try to find ways to get here because I liked it."

She adds that her job included responsibilities for kitchens at the health care facilities in her purview. She says she tried to shift the approach of those kitchens, from serving pre-packaged food to preparing meals from scratch.

"People have lost their way" when it comes to cooking, she says. "It's become simpler to use pre-packaged food, but we're noticing now how diet is so much part of our health."

  photo  Photography by Matt Hamilton / Sean Lawrenson cuts carrots as he performs a knife demonstration at the Good Kinsmen.

Sean says he and his mom had talked for years about opening a business after she retired. Given their shared love of cooking and her professional experience, he says, "kitchens became an easy meeting point for us."

"We both enjoy kitchens, and there was a hole in the (Chattanooga) market for quality kitchen stores," he says.

Vicki says Good Kinsmen's aim is to "make your meal prep, serving and entertaining a lot easier and more elegant." The key to building a cut-above kitchen, she adds, is to weigh the quality of the utensils and appliances.

"Where'd it come from? How was it made? How long will it last?" she says. "We get a lot of people who come in and want to start cooking for themselves, but don't know how to start. When you find the right tools, it makes a big difference.

"We try to help people make good decisions," she adds.

Knives are among those tools, and that's where Vicki says her son shines.

"I'm really passionate about knives," says Sean, who does knife fitting and sharpening at Good Kinsmen. "(Fittings) is part of the enjoyment for me and a service to our customers. What's a quality knife? How does it fit your hand?"

Sean says Good Kinsmen is a true family business -- his wife, Lauren, handles digital marketing and his brother and sister-in-law, Chris and Breezy, are in the mix after moving to Chattanooga from Florida this past summer.

Good Kinsmen heads into its second holiday season having logged what Sean calls "pretty solid month-to-month growth" in its first year.

"We have big plans for this business," he says. "We want to keep it growing, and we've had really great response from the community. Each month, our returning-customer (count) goes up and up.

"People keep coming back," he adds, "so we must be doing something right."