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After 10 years in business, Whisk in Cary will be closing its doors. But before you think it’s another victim of the COVID economy, think again.

Dan and Diana Saklad opened the cooking store in Waverly Place 10 years ago. In that time, I took a cooking class there while pregnant with my first child and have since taken all three of my kids there to pick out cookie cutters and sprinkles (and done a lot of holiday shopping for my husband).

The sense of community that the Saklads created is one of their favorite accomplishments. As I popped in to the store the other week, I asked Dan about the decision to close and what’s next. In short, he and his wife built a successful business and are ready to move on to the next chapter of traveling the U.S. and the world.

He credits an early understanding of managing money, the power of investing and not living outside of your means as part of his financial success over the years. I asked him to share some of his other insights and wisdom.

The store will close the first week of June.

Whisk is the most recent chapter in your career. What first drew you to opening this business?

My wife Diana and I had our own successful careers, and one of the things we found throughout life and especially as things got stressful was that our sanctuary was always cooking. It was something that we loved, something that made us feel peace, and something where we could be creative and get excited on a daily basis. We had moved 10 times with different companies in corporate America, and we were always searching for a feeling of community that we knew wouldn’t exist until we decided to step off of the nomadic train and settle down. So we moved to Cary and eventually decided to start Whisk, a community-centric business that supported our lifelong passion.

Whisk was created from our vision of building a local cooking store where customers could find everything for the cook all in one place, interact with knowledgeable staff, learn to cook from the best instructors, and be inspired! Our goal was to build a community of cooks, and that was the overarching theme in our business. It’s why we picked our location, and it’s how we built ourselves into the fabric of the community.

Our path through traditional business roles to retail kitchen store entrepreneurs, while perhaps inevitable, was not a straight line. I (Dan) followed the traditional corporate career, developing deep skills in consumer brand marketing and advertising. I spent 15 years with major consumer products companies like S.C. Johnson, Sara Lee and Kodak. While living in Madrid, Spain, I helped build a multi-country advertising business.

I also built two successful startups – a strategic marketing company and business plan development firm serving entrepreneurial companies and a seven-store, multi-state retail nutrition business.  And I honed my operating skills by serving as Chief Operating Officer for Sageworks, a privately-held software company in the Triangle.

In parallel, Diana was building on the retail and customer service skills she learned in her parents’ art gallery business. She worked for over 20 years with global brands like American Express Travel, Dayton Hudson and Eddie Bauer.

Prior to opening Whisk, she spent five years managing major charitable events for local schools – the Penny Road Elementary School Semi-Annual Book Fair and the Cary Academy Holiday Shoppe.

Through our travels and forays into many kitchen stores around the world, we developed the vision of the perfect store for cooks, one that would include all that we had learned and seen. In our mid 40s, we felt that the time was right to turn our vision and dream into that perfect kitchen shopping experience and community for cooks.

After investing 150% of our energy for 18 months into business planning and startup, Whisk was born. We decided to locate in Waverly Place because the long-term vision of making the shopping center a gathering place with a community feel was compatible with our vision for Whisk.

What are you most proud of in the development of Whisk?

What has made us most proud and given us the most joy is the community we have created. Our mission when we started was to create a community of cooks – welcoming people from all walks of life who shared a love of cooking or wanted to learn more so that they could increase their own enjoyment in the kitchen. Though we certainly had a vision, it evolved into something greater and more spectacular than we ever expected!

One thing that few people know is that the fabric of Whisk is now ingrained throughout the community in ways they don’t see. Whisk has incubated a lot of other businesses that have started in our community by helping other budding entrepreneurs reach their own personal dreams. For example, we have helped other people start a flower business, another cooking school, a personal chef business, a photography business, a food manufacturing business, and more. Whether through business coaching, experienced advice, or just telling these new entrepreneurs that they are talented and they are going to do a great job, we have really focused on helping them to believe in themselves and have the confidence and the right tools to pursue their dreams.

You spent time learning about and studying other prominent business leaders early in your career. What lessons did you find most helpful and how did that shape your career?

We have worked for and managed a lot of people throughout the years. Some of the things that have resonated and helped us create our own success have come from the people we see as “servant leaders” who put the needs of their team members and employees before their own personal needs, want to hire people that are going to outshine them in some ways because it serves to make them better as a person and a leader, and show genuine happiness when their people grow and succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

All of these leaders set big, hairy, audacious goals and focused intently on mobilizing the organization to achieve those goals. They were not afraid to try things and fail so that they could learn from those failures. They had a laser-like focus on prioritizing initiatives to eliminate busy work and focus on what was important, and treated time as their enemy because lost time equates to lost progress.

And for us personally, even though these leaders were committed to their business, they were even more committed to their own family and personal relationships outside of business.

What advice do you have for young people just starting out in their careers?

Going into business for yourself can be very difficult and life can be difficult. One piece of advice that resonates strongly with us, whether you are starting a business or involved in a career with a company, is that you can learn from every person you work with and every situation you encounter – good or bad. Sometimes you learn the most from the most difficult experiences! There is rarely a clear path to a fulfilling and successful career. Opportunities that you never expected will present themselves if you are willing to keep your mind open.

What’s next? I know you have plans to travel. Is this officially “retirement” or do you see another business in your future?

We are very lucky that we have been successful enough in our work life to give us the freedom of choice for our next phase in life. One of our most prominent personal goals is to travel to 100 countries and all 50 states, which takes time and planning. Being entrepreneurial in nature, we already have a huge list of business ideas that fill gaps and satisfy unmet needs in people’s lives today. We may decide to start a few more businesses. But when and if we do, it will certainly be in line with our life passions!


Tara Lynn is a former WRAL reporter and anchor. She lends her 15-plus years in journalism to tell visual stories through love-filled photography for families of all kinds. The mother of three little humans and one senior rescue dog believes in celebrating magic in the little things, the big loves, and the imperfect moments that make the most remarkable memories. Her vision is to help families celebrate and share their love through photography and curated album artwork that become timeless keepsakes connecting multiple generations…because moments often pass in the blink of an eye, and the photographs we take connect us to our memories and our great loves, forever.

You can find Tara Lynn on Instagram at @TaraLynn_andCo and TaraLynnAndCo.com. Learn more about her photography at TaraLynnAndCoPhoto.com.