Mail-Order Knife Sharpening Startup Opens Wayzata Store
Joseph Rueter is in the business of sharpening knives, but his mission extends far beyond kitchen cutlery.
Working from a storefront in a Wayazata strip mall, Rueter is building a business dedicated to sharpening knives for home cooks. He calls the business Vivront Cutlery & Sharpening. The company has two ostensibly unrelated objectives: Sharpening knives and tackling student lunch debt. Rueter said the latter goal was actually his primary motivation in launching the company.
Vivront started as a mail-order knife sharpening service out of Rueter’s garage in the fall of 2021. He began sharpening knives for friends, who told their friends, and soon, professional chefs from across the country. As demand grew, he decided to add a brick-and-mortar store at 3408 County Road 101, Wayzata, which opened just before the holidays, in early November.
“I wanted to make Vivront more official, give it a face, and establish a community presence,” Rueter said.
The shop’s high ceilings and wooden countertops are a stark contrast to Reuter’s garage workspace. With an official store, Rueter hopes to teach knife classes, sell kitchen supplies, and grow his brand to gain other partners. Not to mention, the store is warmer than the garage, providing a better temperature for sharpening, Rueter said.
Mail-order knife sharpening
While Rueter is excited about building a local presence, his business plan is national. Inspired by successful home delivery startups like HelloFresh and Stitch Fix, Vivront offers mail-in knife sharpening. The company mails customers knife-safe, postage paid packaging to send in their dull knives. After sharpening, the knives get shipped back to their doorstep, ready to chop.
With a background in marketing and communications, Rueter had no professional cooking experience, nor had he worked in the culinary supplies business before launching Vivront. The pandemic gave Reuter more time at home to cook…and to think about his dull knives. “It struck me as odd that everything was easily shipped to our house, but not a kitchen knife sharpening service.”
To build up his knowledge of knife sharpening, Rueter learned from multiple experts in the field about how to properly sharpen kitchen knives and acquire the right machinery and supplies.
“Knife sharpening has always been unconventional and time-consuming for people,” Rueter said. “Sharp knives make cooking easier … we want to increase the number of households that sharpen their knives.”
Dull knives require more pressure and effort to cut through food. But sharp kitchen knives makes it easier to cut up vegetables, fruit, and meat, Rueter said. In his time running Vivront, Rueter has heard anecdotes from customers who’ve said they’re starting to cook more at home and eat healthier because it takes less time to prepare food.
Vivront certainly isn’t the first company to jump into the knife sharpening business. Cozzini Bros and Knife Aid are a few other big names in the space. But Rueter said he wanted to differentiate his business by backing it with a mission. Vivront currently partners with local school districts and nutrition programs to help pay down student lunch debts, donating 5% of revenue from sharpening services and classes.
Many schools have a system where families pay for their child’s school lunches. When they can’t pay, the student still gets food but they amass a debt for all of the unpaid meals.This can prevent them from certain opportunities in school, including receiving their diplomas.
It’s a topic that Rueter is intimately acquainted with. When he was growing up, Rueter’s family struggled to pay for his school lunches. He wanted to take that experience and build a business around it.
Currently, Rueter runs Vivront on his own, though he’s about ready to start hiring other knife sharpeners. Rueter hopes to expand Vivront regionally and possibly even nationally by partnering with grocery stores and other culinary supplies companies. For now, though, he’s focused on establishing his storefront and building community trust.
“As the community cultivates their cooking supplies, the more we are able to learn from each other,” Rueter said.