By Diane Foster, sales and operations manager for retail division, Le Creuset

Things are heating up at Le Creuset with the help of Hartman Simons, our legal counsel and trusted business partner. (Picture: Ryan Rivera posing with his wife's Le Creuset dutch oven)

Ryan_Le Creuset With retailers still feeling the effects of the recession, Le Creuset is sizzling. With 51 stores in the U.S. and Canada, we have experienced significant growth in the last nine months. Our second Canadian store is opening next month in Toronto – one of 10 stores planned for North America in 2011.

Founded in 1925 in Fresnoy-le-Grand, France, Le Creuset specializes in cast iron cookware coated in a porcelain enamel glaze. The products, known for their lifetime warranty, are still made in the original factory in France and praised by both professional chefs and cooking novices.

Ryan Rivera, Hartman Simons associate, has been guiding this expansion by helping review and negotiate leases for our new stores. He has helped in negotiations with our stores in Dallas, Texas; Leawood, Kan.; Houston, Texas; Oklahoma City, Okla., and Niagara Falls, N.Y. I have been impressed by his industry knowledge. We have a niche market and Ryan has taken the time to learn our business to provide good leasing advice.

Even with our great products and outstanding customer service, I bet many of you are still wondering how we are able to expand in such a difficult market. This has been possible for several reasons.

1)    In challenging economic times, cooking and entertaining at home is more prevalent. People want to invest in a product they will have forever.

2)    Research has shown our stores perform better in shopping centers catering to local consumers, not tourists. In 2011, we have closed three underperforming locations. We replaced them with significantly higher performing stores.

3)    As we continue to expand across North America, we are growing our customer base and new customers are turning into repeat customers.

To learn more about Le Creuset, visit us on the web at http://www.lecreuset.com/. And special thanks to Hartman Simons for all its help and letting us share our retail success story with you. Feel free to comment!