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The Missing Ingredient

The Hill Gets a Neighborhood Kitchen Store

Home cooks and aspiring chefs on Capitol Hill are about to get a new kitchen resource haven closer to home. It will come in the form of Hill’s Kitchen, a shop Leah Daniels is aiming to open in late March across from the Eastern Market Metro stop.

“I’m a neighbor who wanted to do something fun in the neighborhood,” the Capitol Hill native said.

Daniels has been busy renovating and expanding an 1884 row house at 713 D St. SE for the store. She credits her father, a former Hill staffer, with the catchy name, which is a nod to the similarly named Manhattan neighborhood that has outgrown its once rough-and-tumble reputation, not the well-known kitchen reality show featuring screaming British chef Gordon Ramsay.

“The name is young and interesting and funky,” said Daniels, who sees similar qualities in the Hill.

The shop’s tagline, “everything for the cook,” sums up the merchandise. Hill’s Kitchen will carry pots and pans, bakeware, cookie sheets, measuring cups, cookbooks and much more. Cooking enthusiasts will be pleased to see popular brands such as All Clad, Lodge cast iron, Staub enamel-coated cast iron and Mauviel copper pans.

But the store also will feature unique products, including cookie cutters in the shapes of all 50 states, plus one for Washington, D.C. Daniels will need to have that one custom made.

The store’s freshly painted standard row house facade belies the open and airy feel of the remodeled space inside. The original 1,700 or so square feet has been expanded to roughly 3,100 square feet. The retail component of the store will cover the first floor.

Up a flight of stairs is the spacious second floor, home to the shop’s kitchen, which looks like something you’d find in a dream home. The space boasts a six-burner Wolf gas range, two electric ovens stacked in the wall, a spacious stainless steel fridge and granite countertops. Even the bathrooms have a luxurious touch, with tiny stainless steel accent tiles on the floors.

The second floor eventually will be used for cooking classes, parties and community-centered events. “I really want to encourage people to be creative with their cooking,” Daniels said.

[IMGCAP(1)]Daniels also plans to start a garden in the small backyard so cooking class participants can snip fresh herbs.

The effort is all a reflection of Daniels’ love of cooking — and baking in particular. “It’s been neat to watch the food trend hit D.C.,” she said. “I like to cook, but I’m not a chef. I think it would be false of me to present myself any other way.”

Daniels already is a familiar face in the neighborhood, and during an interview, numerous people stopped to ask her how things were going.

She had been running Riverby Books, a used bookstore on the Hill, for about four years and said she’d gone as far as she could go there. “I wanted to own the shop, not run the shop,” she explained.

Most importantly, she wanted to stay on Capitol Hill. “I’m a Hill kid,” she said, rattling off her many fond neighborhood memories, including selling tomatoes at Eastern Market and attending the Capitol Hill Day School.

So she asked herself, “What do people in this neighborhood like and what are we missing?” That’s when the kitchen store concept was born. She veered off a graduate school path to pursue her culinary dream.

“People are trying to do a lot with food [on the Hill] but there are no kitchen stores,” she said, adding that she’d often have to drive clear across town to find utensils or cooking tools.

She’s hoping to fill that void and become a valuable resource for the community. “I don’t want to be a big box store,” she said. “I think there’s been a swing back from big box stores. One of the things I think I’m going to be able to do really well is be responsive to my customers.”

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