Jennifer and John Adam, owners of J.D. Adam Kitchen Co., are celebrating 35 years in business in the Glebe.
Photos: Hannah Daramola
By Hannah Daramola
“A ‘meet-cute’ between a bank teller and a government worker results in a 35-year-old, prosperous small business in the heart of the Glebe” – that’s the story of Jennifer and John Adam, owners of J.D. Adam Kitchen Co. on Bank Street.
Jennifer and John decided to become business owners shortly after their marriage in 1988. They envisioned buying and customizing a store rather than taking over an existing shop and inheriting all its problems. They began to search for a shop for sale in the Glebe, where they already lived. In December 1988, three months after their wedding, they began their business in a rental unit on Bank Street.
After renting for three years, they bought their current location at 795 Bank. The couple turned the main floor into a shop and lived on the second floor, where they raised their two daughters, Alex and Morgan.
Their business had much initial success as the first dedicated kitchenware shop in the Glebe during the 1990s. “We always advertised in the Glebe Report and a couple of local papers,” says Jennifer. “It was mostly word of mouth [in] the beginning. We were new to the neighbourhood, and there was nothing like us here. People liked us.”
They also built their customer base by participating in charity events and donating gift certificates and baskets at local fundraisers at schools, churches and the Glebe Community Centre.
They cater to the community by carrying a wide variety of supplies. They supply kitchenware, bath goods, garden tools and giftware. J.D. Adam prides itself on selling local Canadian-made products and doing many special orders. “When we get the chance to get something made in Canada, we try and jump on that,” John said.
The couple also relies on customers’ recommendations and requests for products that can become permanent fixtures on their shelves if they turn out to be a hot commodity. Jennifer says this is one of many times the Glebe community has proved to be a loyal clientele to their business. “We’re here for them, they’re here for us.” Jennifer said.
Although most customers live in the Glebe, J.D. Adam has many others from further afield. They thought about growing their business by opening more stores but after some reflection, they chose to focus on their original outlet. “We’ll stay in the Glebe,” says John. “We’ve had opportunities to move to other locations, but we’re set on the Glebe, and it’s easier to run one store than spread yourself too thin.”
Jennifer says this was a logical decision. “We live here, we work here. It’s much easier to support this area and care for all our customers.”
The owners also commend their longtime staff for creating a comfortable environment. Many have been working there for years and have developed personal relationships with customers.
“Some people like to work in a smaller business. They see the customers and can talk to them and it’s not quite the same as [working in] a mall where you never see the same person again possibly,” John said.
J.D. Adam has had its share of hard times. In 2011, Bank Street closed for six months to install a new sewer system; the store remained opened, and locals still came but business suffered because people from farther away couldn’t get there by car. “People changed the patterns of how they drove downtown because the Glebe was closed for six months,” Jennifer said.
COVID was also a big struggle. Jennifer says the Glebe community supported them in vital ways despite the lockdown restrictions. “I had people who bought gift certificates just to support us during COVID and never cashed them,” Jennifer said.
The shop was disadvantaged since customers weren’t allowed in, but it partly made up for that because it’s a business that sells things people need at home, where everyone was spending more time, and shoppers were able to make purchases virtually.
“For COVID, it was people calling and saying, ‘Do you have a bread pan?’ So then I would be sending photos of all the different types we had. We did everything at the front door and handed people [their] things with masks on,” Jennifer said.
The Adam family hopes to keep the business just as it is for the near future.
“We [don’t have] any grand plans to expand,” said John. “We’re just happy the way we are right now.”
Hannah Daramola is a third-year student in the Carleton journalism program.