|Wilkie and Merola ladle up the soup|
It was the last Function Junction in the city after Merola closed the flagship store on the Country Club Plaza in late 2008; the city had once been home to several Function Junctions -- long before rivals like Crate & Barrel moved to town.
After the Plaza store closed, Crown Center executives encouraged Merola and Wilkie to expand into the vacant retail space (formerly occupied by a toy train store) adjacent to their shop. Since Merola had long wanted to have a demonstration area -- the best way to display and sell cooking products -- blueprints were drawn up for a full Viking commercial kitchen to be installed in the newly expanded store.
cooking crew -- including Merola -- began whipping up pots of butternut
squash bisque and pans of freshly baked focaccia with bits of
kalamata olives. Wilkie brewed cups of espresso for customers who
needed a jolt of caffeine. Another employee popped popcorn and another
made S'mores with a product that looked like a Mattel toy.
The expanded Function Junction opened in time for the holiday season
and Merola hopes to have some kind of cooking demonstration every day. Because nothing lures customers into a culinary shop faster than the
aroma of something baking in those fancy ovens.