Skip to main content

It’s all about sharpness with The Traveling Sharpener

The mobile business makes house calls, does LIVE! events and more

share arrow printer bookmark flag

September 5, 2023

NORTHEAST WISCONSIN – Though the manufacturers of the expensive knife set you purchased might claim they’ll stay sharp forever, that’s not always the case.

That’s where The Traveling Sharpener – owned and operated by Kelly Lewis – can assist.

Lewis said The Traveling Sharpener name perfectly depicts what she does – traveling to different locations around Northeast Wisconsin to sharpen blades.

“I make house calls (if there’s enough equipment to sharpen), attend LIVE! events where it’s first come, first served, have drop-off points around Northeast Wisconsin for pickup and schedule regular visits to restaurants who need their equipment sharpened,” she said.

Lewis said she also specializes in knife repair.

“If you break the tip off your $150 chef’s knife, don’t throw it in the trash,” she said. “I can reshape that in no time. Of course, it will be a bit shorter, but I can reshape it and make it look like new, and it’s less expensive than buying a new one. In our era of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle,’ there’s nothing better than having a $150 knife repaired and returned to you for $20.”

Items Lewis can sharpen include knives (serrated and ceramic included), scissors, pruners, axes, ice augers, lawn mower blades and more.

Lewis said everyone has an opinion on how to sharpen knives, but she knows what works.

“You’ll hear all kinds of things about knife angle, edges, knife materials, etc.,” she said. “It’s become a passion of mine, and I want to be the person people come to. Having sharp tools makes tasks more fun.”

How it began
Lewis said after graduating from Germantown High School northwest of Milwaukee, she moved north for college to study business at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“After college, I became a store manager at Cook’s Corner (in Green Bay),” she said. “It was a huge 25,000-square-foot kitchen store.”

After working at Cook’s Corner selling knives and other kitchen equipment, Lewis said the owner (Pete Burback) eventually asked her if she wanted to go “the knife sharpening route.”

“We both traveled to San Francisco to train on this same machine I now use,” she said. “I had no prior knowledge of how to sharpen knives – I knew how to sell a knife, not sharpen it. I was excited about the training and quickly became proficient at it – so much so that the mentor training us told my boss, ‘I think Kelly should do the sharpening at the store.’ It was clear I took to it quickly.”

After about a year of sharpening knives at Cook’s Corner, Lewis said the kitchen store closed.

“It was one of those moments where I was like, ‘now what?’” she said. “That started the seed of doing this on my own.”

From there, Lewis said she traveled back to San Francisco and bought a 1997 F-250 truck from her sharpening mentor.

Kelly Lewis sharpens a knife at a LIVE! event at Sal’s Foods on Webster Avenue in Allouez. Rich Palzewic Photo

“I drove it back here and worked out of that until it started giving me problems last year,” she said. “It caused me to cancel several events – it was expensive and frustrating. For quite a few years, though, it did its job.”

In June, Lewis moved her operations to a new pull-behind, traveling trailer.

“It works great,” she said. “I reorganized it all with shelving, and now I do all my operations inside it.”

Different options
The Traveling Sharpener offers several options to meet customers’ schedule and needs.

Lewis said from May through October when the weather is more cooperative, she holds several LIVE! events in the Northeast Wisconsin area from noon to 2 p.m.

Locations and days include:
Monday: Sal’s Foods, Webster Avenue, AllouezTuesday: Rob’s Family Market, Menasha Avenue, ManitowocWednesday: The Free Market, Wisconsin Avenue, AppletonThursday: Season to Taste, Lineville Road, Suamico
“It’s on-site on a first-come, first-served basis,” she said. “I like doing these events because you can interact with people. Sal’s is one of the busiest spots, but it varies how many people walk up. I say I’m here at noon, but sometimes people begin coming at 11:30 (a.m.) and I don’t stop until 3 p.m. – that’s a good day. Other times, only 10 people show up. I like working with local small businesses to offer this service.”

For those who can’t make a LIVE! event, Lewis said she has several drop-off locations in the area.

“Customers can drop off items any day during location hours, I’ll service them and then let them know when they’re done,” she said.

Specifics on drop-off days, times and locations can be found at

Lewis said she also does other pop-up events.

Kelly Lewis purchased a new traveling trailer earlier this summer, making it more convenient for making house calls and attending LIVE! events. Submitted Photo

“I’ve done plant sales, sewing groups, etc.,” she said. “A group of ladies will have a sewing retreat, and I’ll come in for an hour or two and sharpen all their sewing scissors. I do four or five of those a year.”

Because the LIVE! events are only held from May through October, Lewis said she’d like to grow the commercial side of the business – for when the weather isn’t quite as cooperative.

“I travel to some restaurants on a monthly or a bi-monthly basis,” she said. “I’ll pull my trailer up outside and sharpen their knives on-site. I’d like to add more of those. I call restaurants/businesses and tell them what I do – I’ll even do on-site demonstrations.”

Lewis said she also offers mail-in service, but that’s not as popular because of shipping costs.

“I want to give people as many options as possible,” she said. “The mail option is probably the smallest side of the business.”

A woman-run business
Lewis said many people don’t think of a woman when they picture a knife sharpener.

“Many think of an older gentleman because it’s true,” she said. “It’s mostly older men, but they are retiring or not doing the business anymore. I don’t take offense to it, but I can do the job well.”

More information on pricing is also online or by texting/calling Lewis at (262) 573-0352.

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending