On any given morning on Jacksonville’s California Street, passersby will see Steve Abandonato washing down the sidewalk in front of his business, The Pot Rack. “I like to clean up,” Steve explains. “I don’t like things dirty, inside or out.” Aiming his hose at a large stainless steel pet dish on the sidewalk, he adds, “Even for the local dogs.”
This cleansing ritual is a bonus; spotless products and service inside The Pot Rack now have kept Steve and his wife Joann Freeland in the kitchenware business for twenty-five years. Yet rather than celebrate their anniversary, they’re simply making sure shelves are stocked with whatever their customers are looking for, items that would seem to satisfy every cooking need. “Choosing product is a tough call,” Steve admits. “If we don’t have whatever it is that a customer wants, I can get it within a week. Our fastest-moving product line is Danish-made Scanpan cookware.” Following close behind: reliable Wusthof knives. “We sell a lot of them,” he says, “and I have knife-sharpening equipment, so we service them too.”
Running a high-end kitchen business seems to come naturally to Steve and Joann, yet it wasn’t their original plan. “We used to be in the gasoline industry,” Steve says, “with an Arco AM/PM location in Sacramento.” But after a decade, “Joann wanted out. She’s always liked to cook, so we looked for a location to open a kitchen store.” After constructing a building on an empty lot in Florence, Oregon, they began attending kitchen product trade shows across the West. “We had to go, because we had no idea how to find our inventory.” They opened the door to customers in 1992.
The Florence store thrived for nine years, and then, according to Steve, “Joann said, ‘I’m tired of the rain.’” They found a suitable storefront in Carmel, California. But rather than shutter the Florence store, they opted to expand their business and keep both locations running.
Three hectic years followed. “From one store to the other was a ten-hour drive,” Steve says. “I was at one store, Joann at the other, and she ran back and forth doing all the ordering. She liked to do the back room stuff that nobody notices. Even today, she organizes the merchandise, and creates all the displays. I do the front stuff, the selling.”
Predictably, the road grew tiresome, and the couple decided that it was time for one more change. That’s when fate, in the form of a random visitor to the Carmel store, stepped in. “I mentioned to him that we wanted to get off the coast, out of the rain,” Steve recalls. “And he said, ‘Have you ever been to Jacksonville?’” Steve admits with a chuckle that he had no idea where Jacksonville was. But upon hearing that it was in Oregon—and not on the coast—he and Joann decided to check it out.
“When we saw Jacksonville,” he continues, “Joann said, ‘This is it.’” They opened their new store in the Orth Building and soon sold their other locations. “We were on Oregon Street for three years,” Steve reflects, “until our present location became available in 2004. I boxed up everything and carried it over here in my little pick-up.”
It turns out that twenty-five years is just a marker along the road. “We’re not moving,” says Steve with a smile. “We’re not retiring. I’m gonna die right here…as they say, the third time’s a charm!”
Meaning Jacksonville residents will be seeing that spotless sidewalk for some time to come.