Dan Adams stands at the front of his C. Worth Superstore, beaming at the assortment of deep fryers, glassware, sinks, knives, dishes and nacho cabinets within.
Plainly Adams, who has worked in restaurants and restaurant supply for most of his life, is someone who loves a nicely weighted professional cooking implement.
“Welcome to the culinary candy store,” he says of his 15,000 square foot showroom.
If you have listened to Lexington radio, you know Dan Adams via his advertising. Local chefs sing his praises on subjects from equipment to kitchen planning. Adams himself boasts a radio-trained voice and can make selling a cooking pan sound like a warm invitation to a fireside chat.
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Adams’ store on Versailles Road has two life-size dummies framing the showroom wearing chef garb, which the store sells. It’s easy to mistake them for real people by day, and Adams says his “watchmen” look more real by night.
What C. Worth sells is what you never realize that people who sell food have to buy: Floor mats. Chef’s uniforms. A basting brush that looks like a silicone explosion of bristles the color of Pepto-Bismol. A soup-warming crock so sturdily clad it looks as if it could withstand an army. Deep friers big enough to bathe in. Chairs. Tables. Bus tubs.
It turns out the wide flat rectangular tubs are popular for a variety of uses. A Lexington-based catalog company used to use them in its shipping department, Adams says. Auto repair garages can use them for holding parts and catching spills beneath cars. You probably remember them from college as the place where you deposited your messy dishes.
Adams works with all kinds of commercial clients and likes to say that he won’t sell a client anything they don’t need — hence selling single items such as a pan or a salt shaker.
Some customers have surprising needs, Adams says.
Vets like ice to use for horse ice packs. Concession stands and bingo parlors can live and die with their nacho serving apparatus. A dishwasher that cleans a load in three minutes is popular among senior citizens’ homes.
Churches need a closet-like warming stand that allows potluck participants to store their dishes all in one place until they are ready to serve. Caterers need a slotted mobile food warmer that keeps dishes hot for three hours but looks like a miniature safe. Executives carving up the holiday ham for their employees like the chef’s jackets up front.
And while the giant refrigerators C. Worth sells look big enough to store all the food you might need for the next season, Adams guarantees that they’re loud enough to not be feasible for home use.
Adams said he stocks items that will last for years of professional use: “Chemicals and throwaways are just not my cup of tea.”
He also buys older restaurant equipment and reconditions it, then sells it to budget-minded commercial businesses. In the back of C. Worth is a jumble of unexpected items, like giant baking sheets, door latch replacements and a pair of ice sculpture molds.
C. Worth also offers kitchen design for its commercial clients, which Adams says will show how equipment fits into a kitchen down to the inch.
C. Worth cultivates its relationships with chefs who pass through Lexington. Adams said that many of them keep buying from his store and website — Cworthsuperstore.com — when they move away to restaurants in larger cities. C. Worth regularly serves customers around Kentucky and into Tennessee and Ohio.
Adams said, “These chefs that come from other parts of the world land here and they like us.”