Three wooden spoons for 99 cents. The first sale at The Cupboard. It was November 22, 1972 in a tiny little shop in the Northern Hotel, sparsely and optimistically filled with a lot of baskets, plants, some local pottery, wooden bowls and some wooden spoons. Thirty nine years later, under the leadership, hard-work, common sense, and good values of Carey Hewitt, The Cupboard is a central downtown fixture. The Cupboard employees over 30 people, runs a multi-million dollar business with the intelligent and attentive weilding of pencil and paper, and is as vibrant as ever. The Cupboard just launched its new website and is dipping its toes into online sales, and Jim, Carey’s son is in process of taking over the business. I thought it was a fine time to interview father and son, to find out a little more about their thoughts on life at The Cupboard.
Carey, what has been the most rewarding aspect of owning The Cupboard?
I guess it would be seeing both customers and staff embrace this store and work to enhance it. We often hear from customers that they are happy we are here in downtown Fort Collins, which encourages us, but also challenges us to continually improve. Our staff has taken ownership in the store and each person works to enhance The Cupboard, whether in buying, displaying, product knowledge, or customer service.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in kitchen retail over the last 39 years?
Nationally, we have seen the consolidation of department stores, the rise of discount stores, and now the emergence of the internet as a selling venue. In our store, we have evolved with an ever increasing selection as we have expanded, with a greater emphasis on displaying the merchandise. Recently, we have also developed a stronger marketing program through the newpaper, our website, and on Facebook.
How do you see The Cupboard evolving into the future?
I’ve always wanted The Cupboard to be the best kitchen specialty store we could be. This means working as a team to buy merchandise that is functional, attractive, and distinctive. It also means displaying it so that the customer finds it appealing and marketing it well so that our message is heard. With the advent of internet selling, I feel it is important to offer some of our products on-line so this is a bold new adventure for us. I do not want to have another brick and mortar store, but instead continually make this one the best it can be.
Jim, What do you remember about The Cupboard as you were growing up?
When I think about The Cupboard growing up, I always think of the staff (some of whom still work with us). I was always welcomed and felt part of The Cupboard culture. They saw me grow up from a small boy to the person I am today. When I went away to college, I always talked about how great the staff was at my dad’s store.
Working at the store in high school, I remember the expansions in 1989 and 1994 and being excited about the projects. From when I was young through high school, my sister and I would get to choose one ornament each Christmas to hang on our tree. One of my first was a small nutcracker which hangs on my tree today.
I don’t remember this, but my mom tells the story of me as a young kid. After shopping with her all day and being told not to touch anything, we entered The Cupboard and in a loud voice I announced, “This is my daddy’s store and I can touch whatever I want!”
When you were growing up, did you ever think you would take over The Cupboard?
I don’t know if I ever thought that I would take over the store. I chose business as a major because I saw myself possibly being involved in the business. After my dad told me that he had taken a few business classes and they didn’t help him, I decided to change my major to communication studies. He told me that running the business boiled down to “how you treat people and common sense.”
Where would you like to take The Cupboard in the future?
As we move forward into the future, I want to make sure that we continue to do the things that we do well. We have great merchandise and great customer service. I want the in-store experience to be the priority. I also want to keep up with the times. Customers constantly ask us if we sell online. Our new website will feature a limited amount of products that people are able to purchase online. I plan to continue to build on this. I also want to find more ways to communicate with and involve the community around us.