Meet Galen Garretson, the badass founder and owner of Town Cutler, a supplier of professional-quality knives and sharpening services in the Bay Area. We're extremely excited to work with such a passionate hustler who reps #ApronSquad. We asked Galen a few questions to learn more about how he got started in the knife business and the advice he has for other entrepreneurs! 🔪 We're on a mission to highlight all the different craftspeople, artisans and makers who wear H&B loud and proud so you can look forward to more features like this in the future! #MakerSeries
Photo: Town Cutler
What did you learn both about knives and yourself while working as a chef that led you to open up Town Cutler?
I learned that I love knives more than I thought I did. There are so many aspects that make a knife a knife — all of the elements that make up different steels, heat treating techniques, the overall design and finish. As a chef, I enjoyed the entire process of turning raw materials into a refined finished product, and now I continue that with our Town Cutler handmade products. I also learned how hard I could push myself both mentally and physically, which has been essential while building a brand and business.
At what point did you first come up with the idea of opening up Town Cutler?
I came up with the idea of opening Town Cutler while I was a Sous Chef at Quince. I spent a lot of my day butchering whole animals and wished I had a store to visit where I could pick up great knives and feel them. I also needed to find a place where I could learn more about knives. Why were some knives over $300? Why did some knives get sharper than others? The kitchen prep table at Quince is in front of a big, pretty window, and I spent my day in this beautiful kitchen, surrounded by the best of everything, always striving for perfection in what we were doing. I've always been fascinated by knives and as I started to think about retiring from professional cooking, I wanted to bring the same quality and attention to detail from these high-level kitchens into a knife shop. During service, I'd write down my ideas for Town Cutler on a napkin and compile them at home after a long shift in the kitchen.
When you decided to start Town Cutler, you had worked in various restaurants, but how did you begin to make a name for yourself as an entrepreneur?
10+ hours a day, for 10 years, a knife was my primary tool and livelihood, so I think it helped that I had worked in kitchens for most of my life and people trusted that experience. However, I think the most important thing as a business has been pairing high-quality products, with high-quality service. Even though we're a knife shop, we still strive for Danny Meyer level hospitality and service. When I opened Town Cutler I wanted a place where people could feel comfortable no matter their level of experience, knowledge, or budget. Building those relationships is paramount. With Town Cutler, we want to bring service to an industry that deserves it.
My favorite step in the process is taking a softened piece of steel and hardening it with our heat treating process. You can actually feel how much harder the steel gets. This makes it possible to do my second favorite part of the process, which is grinding the blade down to make it thin. Without the proper heat treating, you can't get a blade as thin as ours. That kind of "nerdy" attention at every step is what I think makes a Town Cutler knife.
What advice do you have for someone looking to turn a passion into a business?
Never stop moving. Never let anything stand in your way. Be constantly learning. I make sure my team and I are discovering something new every week.