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In three decades as general manager of the Danversport Yacht Club, Paul Delorenzo became very familiar with the walk-in refrigerators and freezers in the club’s restaurant. They were ideal for both chilling and organizing the restaurant’s ingredients; far better, Delorenzo thought, than his own refrigerator.

What if he could have a smaller version in his own home? It would be so much easier to see and use everything. 

He joined forces with Don Lake, a friend with a career in telecommunications, to create RootCellar Concepts, a company dedicated to making that vision a reality. They spent five years figuring out how to modify industrial elements to make a refrigerated walk-in pantry that is quiet, energy-efficient, and attractive enough for a modern home. 

“The idea came from my wife buying little jars of chopped garlic,” Delorenzo jokes. “I once found five little jars in the back of our conventional refrigerator, and they were all full.”

The poor organization inside traditional fridges leads to spoilage, waste, and frustration. A core food service principle is “first in, first out,” so that the older products get used before they go bad. Families would benefit from this practice as well—putting a new jug of milk behind the old one, for instance—but, says Delorenzo, “Never once did I ever take out the old stuff and put the new stuff behind it.” 

The RootCellar’s shallow floor-to-ceiling shelving allows you to see everything you have at once. Optional freezer compartments have glass doors, like in the grocery store, so you can assess your frozen items at a glance. And not only is your food visible, it’s all in one place. With a minimum of 400 cubic feet of storage space, the RootCellar eliminates the need for a second fridge or freezer. 

Each RootCellar is custom-fitted during renovation so that it hides behind an unobtrusive, automatic pocket door in the kitchen wall, which can be paneled to match the cabinetry. 

“When people come to see it in person, they say, ‘What’s wrong? There’s no refrigerator!’” says Delorenzo. “Then you move your hand and the door slides open, and you see this amazing space. It’s unbelievable the reaction you get when people see it for the first time.”

The specialized electronics and machinery allow for whisper-quiet operation and energy efficiency. Running the RootCellar takes more energy than running one regular refrigerator but less than running two. 

Paul Delorenzo and Don Lake

“We work on the assumption that everyone has more than one refrigerating appliance,” says Lake. “We know people don’t have enough room for what they need.”

The RootCellar’s larger dimensions open up storage options: plunk a case of beer or seltzer on the floor, pop a party platter on the shelf, store a turkey without taking other things out.  

“If I catch 12 lobsters scuba diving, all 12 go in the RootCellar,” says Delorenzo. “The kids just go in there and they pick out a basket full of cold cuts and cheeses and they make their sandwiches and they put it right back.”

The automatic pocket door allows you to access your ingredients when your hands are dirty or full. And a ceiling-mounted camera lets you to see what you have—or lack—remotely from the grocery aisle.  

The RootCellar is particularly useful for serious home cooks, people who entertain a lot, craft beer collectors, and vacation homes that accommodate large groups. But this is an innovation so useful it’s not hard to picture a day when there will be one of these in every home.  

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