The Cupboard-A Locally Owned Kitchen Store at the Beginning of a Food Revolution

Original storefront of The Cupboard in 1972, Fort Collins, Colorado

Original storefront of The Cupboard in 1972, Fort Collins, Colorado

In 1972, in the quiet town of Fort Collins, Colorado, Carey Hewitt opened The Cupboard. Hewitt modeled his store after the popular Denver store of the time Board and Barrel by selling a selection of baskets, pottery, and kitchen items. At that time the store was a mere 750 square feet, the same amount of space that now accounts for the tile foyer of the current Cupboard.  Little did the owner, Carey Hewitt, know that he would be at the beginning of a complete cultural revolution in food taking place in America.

Today, locally grown, organic, celebrity chef, the food network, are words and organizations we take for granted. But in the early 1970s in America, food was an entirely different proposition. TV dinners, Jell-O salads, and Shake N’ Bake defined what Americans ate and their relationship to their kitchens. But that was all beginning to change, with a few noteable influencers. Starting in the 1960s, Julia Child, an American legend, wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, released in 1961. She broke down complex and elusive French dishes into simple, doable steps, that were eagerly reproduced in American kitchens. A country that was enchanted by the Kennedy’s found an approachable and free-spirited way to bring some of Jackie Kennedy’s European sophistication into their homes. Then came her PBS special, The French Chef in 1963, when the quirky tour de force of Julia, entered via the direct medium of television into American homes. She was the first celebrity TV chef. Her authenticity and willingness to make mistakes and laugh made her entirely accessible and loveable. Americans fell in love with her and with food. In 1970, after a four-year hiatus from television and a bout with breast cancer, Julia returned to PBS to film more episodes of The French Chef, this time in color. Her influence on American cuisine had been established and it would only continue to grow.

America was primed by Julia Child, and earlier food pioneers such as James Beard and M.F.K. Fisher.  But it was in the 1970s the American revolution of food would truly set root. In 1970 the legendary and still vibrantly active chef, Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley California. Waters focus on using locally sourced, organic, high quality ingredients, and her passion for advocacy and the environment continues to transform how we think, produce and eat food. It was a time of revolution not only in the kitchen but also in the awareness of the environment. Seminal books such as The Whole Earth Cookbook and Diet for a Small Planet were published in the early 1970s.

As these influences increased the demand for high quality kitchen supplies, Hewitt listened. His own customers were increasingly requesting specialized kitchen products. In 1978, he attended the San Francisco Gourmet Products Show. It was at this time he met Carl Sontheimer, founder of the Cuisinart food processor. Sontheimer brought Cuisinart, a French food processor, to the American market in 1973. He was a passionate cook and worked tirelessly, giving demonstrations across America, promoting this new amazing, although expensive at the time, kitchen tool.  Because of Sontheimer’s efforts, along with endorsements from Julia Child and James Beard, American consumers finally embraced the Cuisinart food processor into their kitchens. In 1977 Cuisinart could not fill all of the requests for Christmas orders. They responded by giving customers an empty Cuisinart box with a gift card for a Cuisinart that would be mailed to them in the spring. Hewitt saw Sontheimer’s passion and also the amazing demand for this new kitchen product. While in San Francisco, Hewitt also visited the original Williams Sonoma store and saw the possibilities of what a kitchen store could be. Hewitt returned home inspired to make The Cupboard into a full blown kitchen store in order to meet this new demand for kitchen tools. He moved the store to its current location of 152 S. College Avenue. (in 1978 it was ¼ the current size). In Carey Hewitt’s words “I was at the beginning of a tidal wave.” It was this new American interest in the kitchen, along with Hewitt’s ability to listen to what the customer wanted that helped make The Cupboard a success. And now, 45 years later, the store is still a family run business, lead by his son, Jim Hewitt. The Cupboard grew up amidst a cultural food revolution. The store thrived by helping supply customers’ with high quality kitchen tools. The Cupboard’s goal continues to be connecting people to their kitchens by providing high quality kitchen accessories, cookbooks, specialty food and more.