Photo: Caviar & Bananas
Kris Furniss can pinpoint the exact moment he metamorphosed from Morgan Stanley money man to aspiring food world impresario. It was the week of 9/11. The Long Island bred boy had always loved food -- he confesses to reading Gourmet when he should have had his nose in the Wall Street Journal -- and was already looking for a career change. Furniss had worked in the Towers, and when they fell, he acted. Three days after the attack, he enrolled in culinary school. Today, Furniss owns and operates one of the Low Country's premier food retail boutiques with his wife Margaret in her native Charleston.
Read more about Kris Furniss and his South Carolina culinary creation after the jump.
"Corporate America just wasn't for me, so I enrolled in the French Culinary Institute where I learned, among other things, that working in a hot kitchen with no sunlight twelve hours a day wasn't for me either. I wasn't really sure where I was headed career-wise, but I knew I loved food and wanted to be involved with it in some way. I became the GM at Sushi Samba, stayed for four years, and learned a lot about the business of food. I jumped over to Dean and Deluca, where I ran their Madison Avenue store. That's really where the idea for Caviar & Bananas started to take shape.
I met Margaret in New York, and when she took me to Charleston for the first time, it was love at first sight. We got married there, settled down and did our homework. We knew we wanted to work for ourselves, keep regular hours and have plenty of time for family. We also knew that we didn't want to run a common mom-and-pop grocery. We did lots of research and came up with a concept that we believed would both fit our needs and, more importantly, work.
Charleston is a city of foodies. There's an emerging restaurant scene. There are two top-tier culinary schools. Many of the people here have sophisticated palettes. And there are others that don't necessarily have the background but are willing to try. We want to cater to them too, but in a comfortable, non-intimidating way. That's what the name 'Caviar & Bananas' really symbolizes: the marriage of the exotic and the familiar, the coexistence of the adventurous and the mundane.
People here like local products, so we lean towards those. Right now, I'm really into something we carry called Callie's Charleston Biscuits. I also love Sweeteeth; their founder is a self-taught chocolatier, and I think he's going to be a huge star. We get great products from this area, but we also source from all over the world. We want the best no matter where it comes from. In this regard, I'm particularly proud of our coffee and tea bar. The coffee is roasted specially for us by a master roaster at Counter Culture Coffee, and our tea selection is prepared by the master tea sommelier at Tavalon Teas. Plus, we have all the best packaged teas and coffees from around the world.
People always ask me what it's like to have my wife as a business partner. Honestly, it's not for everyone, but it works for us. I can't do it without her; I look at it as 'two heads are better than one'. Besides, our store is 3,200 square feet. Sometimes we go all day without seeing each other. We're happy. We're in the place we want to be, doing what we want to do. It's a passion and dream for both of us being fulfilled."