After almost three decades in business, Vicki McCain is closing the kitchen.



"This is hard; very emotional," she said through her tears. "Writing the closing announcement was almost like writing my obituary. I am losing something very dear to me."



A fixture in Destin and Walton County since 1985, Kitchenique has been viewed as a cornerstone of the local culinary community.



McCain opened her first location at Destin’s Shoreline Village Mall in July 1985. It was followed by a second store at The Market Shops at Sandestin. She introduced Kitchenique Cooking School in 1999 when she closed the Shoreline Village store.



In 2009 she moved the operation to its current location at 36150 Emerald Coast Parkway Suite 111 in Destin, approximately one-fourth mile east of the Mid-Bay Bridge.



McCain was working in catering services at Sandestin in 1985 when she struck out on her own.



"I loved great food, as did my friends, and there was no place to buy anything, especially quality kitchen items for entertaining," she said. "My plan was to grow it and expand into franchises, but I never got that far."



Going instead with the market trends and demands, McCain veered toward the trend of gourmet coffees, teas, and foods.



She began to introduce local chefs to the area by inviting them into her store for cooking demos when she didn't have anything but a counter and gas burner. Those demos morphed into her opening the cooking school, which was very popular with locals and visitors alike.



But McCain said the move from the easy-to-find Sandestin Market Shops in 2009 to the entrance at Destiny affected her business.



"We lost that summer season and the business. People had difficulty finding us in the new location, and we have struggled ever since," she said sadly.



Couple that with the 2010 oil spill and it was a double whammy.



The convenience of Internet shopping was a third, and the triple trouble proved too much for the struggling business to survive.



"Even though we will not have the location or cooking school, we will continue to have a web presence from which we will sell," she said.



Her second-edition cookbooks, which will be sold from her website, will include recipes from more than 100 chefs who have come through her store and cooking school during its 28 years.



McCain said she will also continue offering private in-home cooking classes, which can be booked online.



"I don't know if I will ever open another store. I can't see us doing another cooking school even though teaching cooking is my passion," she said.



Kitchenique has enjoyed a loyal following from the local community as well as visitors who made the destination a part of their travels to Destin.



The Kitchenique Cooking School has been rated No. 1 and 2 Attractions in Destin by TripAdvisor and celebrated local, regional, national and internationally renowned chefs and restaurateurs have been featured in its state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen.



In 2011, the Kitchenique Cooking School Cookbook was published and will soon be updated with a Chef’s Collection of Recipes and a second-edition printing. Kitchenique will continue marketing on its web site www.kitchenique.com and may be reached by email at Kitchenique@earthlink.net.



The store will remain open for business as usual and scheduling classes through January as a farewell celebration and an opportunity for those who have gift certificates to use them. See the list of classes on the website. Additional seating has been added. The final class will be on Valentines Day, Feb. 14.



The store will be closed to the public Feb. 15 and 16 for a private sale by invitation only.



Kitchenique will re-open Feb. 18 to the general public to liquidate remaining inventory, furniture and fixtures by Feb. 28.



For more information call 850- 654-2679 or e-mail Kitchenique@earthlink.net.



"Please don’t think of this as an end but the beginning of a six-week celebration of great food and friends who’ve made the last 28 years so much fun," said McCain.