For as much as she enjoyed the ins and outs of business, Cyndi Zippilli never liked being an accountant.
Crunching numbers was never as fulfilling as crunching dunkers, her Italian grandmother’s oversized coffee cookies. With a certificate in pastry arts and a Mediterranean love-food emotional connection, Zippilli admits that the spreadsheet game often left her hungry.
“I kind of struggled with my career always, not feeling fulfilled,” she said. “There’s a piece of me that always wanted to have my own business.”
Wednesday morning represented the culmination of that dream, as Zippilli cut the ribbon on The American Table, the latest retail destination to join the ranks of downtown Collingswood.
The name is a statement of intention, she said. It reflects not only an inventory that’s replete with Made-in-the-U.S.A. kitchen products, but a yearning for the at-the-table conversations that a good meal can bring.
“Friends would call on a Friday night,” Zippilli said. “My mom would set the table, [and] they would sit there for hours sharing coffee and cake. I wanted to inspire people to get back to that.”
Zippilli cedes that “it’s hard to compete with the Walmart and Kmart and Target for functional-type items,” but she hopes her business will appeal to shoppers looking for gifts they can’t easily find elsewhere.
“I tried to keep prices moderate,” she said. “I have items that go for a dollar up to some trays made out of wine barrels that go up to $160. Most products are in the $20-$40 range.”
Every item in the store is hand-selected to appeal to customers of different ages and interests—handmade pottery from Wisconsin, table linens from New York; wooden spoons, micro-plane zesters, salt and pepper shakers, candles and diffusers, all made in the U.S.A. The American Table is also stocking a line of American-made sprays, soap, dishwashing liquid and kitchen cleaners.
“The focus on ‘Made in the U.S.A.,’ I think that’s important,” Zippilli said. “I think it’s important to people in this economy. I think it’s different in town, and I think they might see some different products here than are made elsewhere.”
Even in a town like Collingswood, which fervently supports its own, Zippilli acknowledges that entering the retail business in a down economy represents a challenge. Still, she says, she’s bullish on her chances because she believes the concept represents a crossover destination for the "foodies" that keep a steady infusion of cash in Restaurant Row.
“This type of retail store, because it’s food-related, could attract the restaurant-goers,” Zippilli said; “it’s a nice complement.
“I know for me, when I walked around town, I felt a lack of retail presence. I live in town; I think what started this whole idea was the ‘go shop locally’ [push]. I came to shop locally and there’s not that many places to shop.”
The American Table is also equipped to support cooking demonstrations and baking classes. No schedule for them has yet been established, but Zippilli is churning over a few ideas.
As a nod to the future, she brought in a batch of homemade baked goods into the store with her this morning, and with them, a sense of her grandmother, Rose.
“It’s very personal, the homage to my family,” she said.
The American Table is located at 740 A Haddon Ave. in Collingswood. Hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.