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Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously noted that "God is in the details," and nowhere is that more applicable than in today's kitchen—a room crammed with so many knobs, gaskets, dials, motors and sharp edges that it makes the Mars rover look like a Tinkertoy. And like the rover, if even one of those parts fails—a blown espresso maker gasket or a dull carving knife—your mission to host the office dinner party is in trouble.
Cyber-commerce has given us options for solving these kitchen crises, with websites such as http://www.culinaryparts.com and http://www.repairclinic.com , the latter offering free repair instructions and overnight delivery of most replacement parts. But the Internet can't sharpen your knives, and it can't help when you need a replacement heating element to cook tonight's pot roast. That's why brick-and-mortar merchants such as the ones below always will play a crucial role in kitchen upkeep. They offer something the Internet can't—more than 270 years of combined experience with everything from cutlery to countertop appliance parts.
Ross Cutlery & Sharpening Service: This cutlery specialist in downtown's historic Bradbury Building has been selling and sharpening knives from the same location for 85 years (the last 42 of them under the ownership of brothers Richard and Allen Wattenberg). Ross charges 75 cents an inch (measured by blade length) to sharpen knives by hand on a whetstone. The turnaround is usually two days, but by request they can do a job overnight. And if you don't want to tote that freshly sharpened boning knife to the office, they'll ship it home for an additional $5.50 charge.
310 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 626-1897.
Standard Cutlery and Supply: This place has been keeping knife handlers on edge for 76 years. Owner Fred Wieser charges 80 cents an inch and has your knives ready the next day. Ask nicely, and Wieser or one of his employees will teach you how to use a sharpening steel to keep your edge between professional visits.
9509 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 276-7898.
Koontz Hardware: Pot handles melt, igniters wear out and drip pans corrode. Some of these items can be found at your local hardware store, but few of them can rival the 120,000-piece inventory at Koontz. In business since 1938, its selection includes universal replacement parts (coffee carafes, pressure cooker gaskets, stove knobs and percolator tops) as well as kitchen gadgets for specialized tasks (strawberry hullers, angel food cake cutters and a spatula designed for mayonnaise jars). Although universal replacement parts fit most needs, "If we don't have it, we'll happily refer them to someone else," says Koontz manager Dean Wilson.
8914 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 652-0123.
Larchmont Hardware: This store, under the same ownership as Koontz, offers a similar, if smaller, selection. (It also sharpens knives, which Koontz does not.)
152 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 463-5783.
Hughes Appliance Parts Supply Inc.: Here is a stove knob nirvana that do-it-yourselfers dream about but doubt truly exists. Not only does such a vent hood Valhalla exist (and has for the last 58 years), but it also has a Riverside outpost and a new warehouse in downtown L.A. that handles customer walk-ins. The pegboard walls of the large-appliance parts store are crammed with every drip tray, burner hub and igniter switch imaginable. You'll also find Larry Miller, 44, who has worked at Hughes for two decades. First-time customer Greg Peters recently entered the store clutching a drip pan encrusted with cooking debris. He barely set foot inside the door before Miller identified the make and model of the part—from 6 feet away. Can a website do that?
12503 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 397-2110; 240 Iowa Ave., Riverside, (909) 686-8641; the warehouse is at 154 W. 23rd St., Los Angeles, (213) 745-7079.