Barfly Feature: Sisters Double Down on Business Venture

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In “Sisters Double Down on Business Venture,” Rachel and Lindsey Miller, twin sisters, launch Kit, a specialized bar supply shop in Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood. Filling a market gap with high-quality, functional tools and accessories, they cater to both professionals and enthusiasts in the bartending community. With Rachel’s industry expertise and Lindsey’s administrative prowess, the sisters seamlessly divide responsibilities, creating a welcoming atmosphere that doubles as a neighborhood hub. Kit’s success lies in its unique blend of product curation, community engagement, and commitment to supporting local businesses, exemplifying the power of familial collaboration in entrepreneurship.

When bartender Rachel Miller decided to open up a bar supply shop, she knew one thing for certain. She’d get along just fine with her business partner. That’s because Rachel co-founded the shop with her twin sister, Lindsey.

“This is our first time working together, but that being said, we’re super close,” says Rachel. “We have very a similar work ethic, and we have a very similar understanding of how we want things to be. We’re also very honest with each other, so difficult conversations aren’t hard for us to have.”

The pair opened up Kit on Small Business Saturday four years ago in Portage Park, a Chicago neighborhood within walking distance of their respective homes. Kit sells tools and accessories geared to bartending professionals that are “super functional, super durable and super high quality,” says Rachel. “We always ask ourselves, ‘How is this going to work for the person who’s using it?” While their clients are predominately Chicago-based, they’ve field orders from as far away as Alaska. The shop also carries bar-related gift items, mixers, bitters, garnishes and glassware for the home cocktail enthusiast and offers monthly cocktail-making classes.

Kit has a welcoming vibe, with a design more cozy than industrial. Inventory is displayed on painted dining room tables, for instance. Lindsey says, “We wanted the shop to look inviting from the windows, so people passing by would want to walk in and look around.”

The timing for their new venture was serendipitous. Lindsey was ready for a career change at the same time Rachel’s schedule freed up after a few consulting projects wound down. And the opportunity was there. No other store in Chicago sold bar gear and accessories. Rachel says, “That was always surprising and a little frustrating to me, so I said to Lindsey, ‘Why don’t we do this?’” The answer was a fast yes.

The two may share DNA but each brings complementary skill sets to the venture. “We have very different strengths and weaknesses, so in terms of splitting up the tasks, it’s very, very easy,” says Rachel. “Lindsay is way more administratively competent than I am. I’d say 90% of the store is in her wheelhouse in terms of the financials, the administrative tasks and the communication with vendors and clients.” Rachel brings industry expertise and professional connections. She focuses on product curation, runs the cocktail classes and cultivates relationships in the bartending and restaurant community.

The Millers approach the business not just as a retail shop but as a hub in the neighborhood they love. They collaborate with other small businesses, hold events and offer themselves up as a local resource. “Trying to get more small businesses to be viable in this little stretch on the northwest side of town has been really nice,” Rachel says. “People love that we’re here, and we’re happy to be in a neighborhood where people who live here really want small businesses like us to thrive.”

WHY BARFLY MIXOLOGY GEAR

“Bartending is a production center. People are enjoying the fact they get to watch you make cocktails, so style and functionality matter. If you pick up a jigger 300 times in a shift, you want to like it, you want to know it’s not going to get dented when you drop it 16 times. With Barfly, everything they make comes in multiple sizes with multiple options and different gauges and weights. You can always find something that suits what you’re trying to do and how you want it to look. Barfly also has brand recognition, so when professional bartenders come into the shop, they already recognize the tools as professional grade, professional quality.”

– RACHEL MILLER, CO-OWNER OF KIT, A BAR SUPPLY SHOP IN CHICAGO

Original Article