My interview with Kay and Janet Hartshom last week at their kitchen store, Cookie Cutter Etc., was interrupted several times as customers came in to purchase items.

Those customers also took time to wish good luck to the sisters-in-law, who are closing the shop at Westpark Shopping Center at 40th and Summitview avenues on May 10.

While operating the Cookie Cutter for more than three decades was a dream come true for both, they said it’s time to focus on other things.

For Janet, 73, it means finally attending the entire spring training season for the Seattle Mariners. For Kay, 68, (and Janet as well) it will mean more time for volunteer work.

And, Kay said, “It’s time we spend more time with our families.”

At the store, I heard one customer tell Kay and Janet that other retailers often sent her to the Cookie Cutter to find certain items. Indeed, it seemed that Kay and Janet developed a sixth sense when it came to finding and buying what their customers needed. But Kay and Janet know that it didn’t always come so easy.

They remember how overwhelmed they were at their first kitchenwares and gift items expo in Seattle more than three decades ago.

“At noon, we met at the restaurant, we were crying in our Coca-Colas because we hadn’t bought anything,” Kay said. “It was a massive building and we didn’t know what we were doing. It was an eye-opener and we proceeded to go there three more weekends just to get the stuff we needed to get the store open.”

Today, the owners can offer information and insight on just about any item in the store. That, along with its other offerings, such as free gift wrapping, has helped them stay in business despite increasing competition from department stores, big box retailers and the Internet.

“They got used to personal service,” Janet said.

(Neither mentioned this during our interview, but one thing that made the store stand out was its treasurer-hunt atmosphere and ever-changing displays. The store always looked different every time I visited.)

Still, Kay and Janet admit that the last few years haven’t been easy. They note that even some of their loyal customers were drawn to the convenience of shopping online.

“Customers would say, ‘I got this on the Internet’ and ‘I got that on the Internet,” Kay said.

But while both are ready to move on, Kay and Janet say they will miss the business.

In particular they will miss their customers. “Some of them started in our playroom,” Kay said, referring to the area where children could play while their parents shopped. “Now they’re adults with children of their own.”

Though they will be closing in a little over a week, Kay and Janet still make it a point to end each order with the same line: “Thank you very much; we appreciate your business.”

On April 20, I was in the office organizing the Valley Workshop — you’ll find one student’s story on this page — when I got a phone call.

It was from Simeon Gregory, who was calling to let me know he was opening a zombie shop.

“Did I hear that right?” I thought.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. The shop, called Zombieland, will offer a wide variety of zombie-related memorabilia, including posters, statues and shirts. And for those of you who are fans of the popular AMC series “The Walking Dead,” the shop will sell items related to the show.

Gregory, 32, has had a passion for zombies since watching his first zombie film as a child. In the last few years, he founded a website, Zombie Training, devoted to zombie fans with posts about zombie fiction, zombie-themed television shows and even tips on surviving a zombie apocalypse.

The shop, located at 48111/2 Tieton Drive, at the Tieton Plaza shopping center, is now open. Hours are noon to 8 p.m. daily, but they may change depending on business.

The Shop Talk blog (, has updates and analysis throughout the week. Recently, I wrote about the recent opening of several new Mexican restaurants, including one at the former Sloppy Slaw Burgers and Ribs space. You can also follow Shop Talk on Facebook ( and Twitter (

• Mai Hoang’s Reporter’s Notebook is published Mondays in the Marketplace section. To reach her, call 509-759-7851 or email