We had the good fortune of connecting with Elan Wenzel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elan, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
The notion of working for myself was attractive to me much like I think it is for a lot of folks. I may have been naïve to some of the depths of involvement and the daily minutia of running one’s own business, but I was not naïve to the fact that there is an endless amount of work involved, I’m not shy of working. The trade off is well worth it. The romantic notions of calling the shots and running things the way I see fit based from years of experience called to me. The understanding that I have experience and knowledge that could be put to use educating and supporting my peers also called to me, almost to the point of obligation. It became clear that the sensibilities, merits and sharing of knowledge that were instilled in me from my schooling and career are what I want to impart to my community. Along with awesome knives!
What should our readers know about your business?
The origins of the Element Knife Company stem from an encounter with a traveling knife salesman. I unexpectedly had an opportunity to start making sushi in 1999 and it was a love affair. I continued making sushi for five years then had an opportunity to train Sushi in Japan in 2004. That experience and exposure to the culture, knives, and tools solidified in my mind that it would be “sushi and knives for life”. Fast forward to 2008 when I was working at Denver’s Sushi Sasa. An older Japanese Knife salesman would show up unannounced at Colorado’s sushi bars peddling knives. Early on I bought one and was amazed by its quality. Subsequently, every time he showed up I would buy another thing or three. Eventually, Testuya (Ted) and I became friends. I helped him by setting up appointments at my local chef friends’ restaurants. Eventually, Ted retired and I took the business to another level with an online presence. A big challenge I faced in that early stage, was learning that people do not think as I do. In my excitement to share knowledge and great knives, I hadn’t realized I was basically force-feeding people information. And honestly, the full identity of my business and ethos had not been developed. Things weren’t working as well as I had hoped, and were moving forward slowly. I took a step back and decided to re-brand. In those moments of reflection, it became clear that we are about grass-roots, support, and education. We are about seeking like-minded folks to work along side and form meaningful relationships. Focusing on those sentiments, the knives and tools sell themselves. They do so, because we are experts in our field. We can talk about the products in intimate detail, having used them giving us a deep understanding of form and function.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Hiking and biking… Colorado has so many great trails. Some of the obligatory sites and events like a show at red rocks. I would probably nerd out a little bit and take them on a tour to Celestial Seasonings. Some of my favorite food spots: For tortas, Las Tortugas off Alameda. Dim Sum in Broomfield at Empress. Dumplings at La Wang Noodle House. Gin cocktails and bites at Ulteria. Sushi at Sushi Sasa. Denver Biscuit Company and pizza from Atomic Cowboy. Breakfast bagels at Rosenbergs. Burgers at Snarf Burger. A trip to Golden would prove fun! Dive bars on South Broadway and a Slim Cessna’s Auto Club show at The Meadowlark.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
A lot of folks have positively influenced me. In no particular order, here are just a few that have had lasting impressions. My grandma Rose had several encouraging truisms. One that really stuck is “If there is something worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”. In Culinary school, Chef David Welch pushed, lead, encouraged, and imparted work ethic. My mother and father, whose relentless efforts of support and honesty. This showed me the importance that anything outside of that sensibility is a disservice. That translated within the times that I lead and taught.
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Other: Brick & Mortar Location: 2501 Dallas Street, Aurora, Co. 80010 Located inside Stanley Marketpalce