The Knife Guy: A cut above

Bill Swontek brings his knowledge of sharpening knives back to the beach
March 16, 2023

Bill Swontek opened The Knife Guy in November 2021 to offer his vast knowledge of the knife rental service to the southern Delaware community. 

As The Knife Guy, Swontek operates his business by purchasing kitchen knives from wholesalers and then selling them to local businesses. Following a regular schedule, Swontek will then trade out the knives with sharpened replacements every week or two weeks. 

“It’s a cycle,” said Swontek. “We’ll walk into the business and go into the kitchen, and literally take the knife out of the chef’s hand and just keep moving until we get everything. We close the box up, get paid, leave the store, get in the car and go do another one.”

The Knife Guy currently serves more than 550 businesses, primarily those in Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany, Fenwick Island, Ocean City and West Ocean City. They also distribute knives throughout Milton, Milford, Harrington, Dover, Middletown, Bridgeville, Salisbury and Cambridge. 

Swontek credits his business’ early success to loyal longtime connections. Some of the original restaurants that partnered with The Knife Guy were Fins and Big Fish Grill in Rehoboth, and Secrets, Off the Hook and Touch of Italy in Ocean City. 

The store in Peddler’s Village also became open for walk-in customers in March 2022 for those who are looking to have their kitchen knives sharpened. Swontek guarantees a 24-hour turnaround for walk-ins and charges only $3 per knife through cash or check. Customers also have the opportunity to choose from a wide selection of knives in the storefront.

However, behind the storefront is where the bulk of the work is completed. Every two months, Swontek orders about 300 to 400 new knives. The knives arrive dull and thick, so the team begins by using a hollow grinder to thin out each knife. Next, the honing wheel shapes the knives and smooths out rough patches. The third machine removes burrs and fine-tunes the edges. Most knife-sharpening businesses do not use the final machine, which is what sets The Knife Guy apart from other companies. 

Swontek originally gained experience in this industry after joining his friend’s knife-sharpening business in Baltimore while still living at the beach. He worked for the company for 28 years until it was merged with FoodPrep Solutions, which Swontek viewed as a chance to start his own practice. He was required to invest a great deal of his own money toward the machines, and built most of the shelving and cases with his family and friends.

“I was scared to death, but I also had a good feeling. I felt like I knew people, and I thought they liked me. The first two months we did really well, as best as we could. We got a couple hundred shops and then kind of slowed down a little bit. I started worrying that I had made the wrong decision, but then we started picking it back up. It was a long process, and it still is. We’re still a little bit away from becoming profitable, but we’re close.”

Above all, Swontek is grateful for his three-man team that has guided and supported him along the way. He believes his staff of Dennis Viera, Arturo Cruz and Jared Cordoba are the most hardworking and reliable group of workers he could possibly employ. 

In addition to knives, Swontek and his team also sell cutting boards, can openers and gear blades at the store. The plan for the future is to expand the inventory of kitchen items sold in the storefront where they will place more display cases. By the summer, Swontek also hopes to increase the number of businesses served to around 650.

With a laugh, Swontek said, “People always ask, ‘What’s the name of your company?’ I say, ‘The Knife Guy.’ Then they realize who I am. It’s always been a big joke. Maybe they’ll remember my name one day.” 


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