The following is an editorial business profile.
While hospitality outside the home may exist in an upscale restaurant, it rarely exists in a retail store. Yet, with hot gourmet coffee samples, and dark chocolate by the piece, every time I go to The Cupboard, I experience uncommon hospitality and gracious service.
In October 2017 this kitchen and home specialty store, the largest independently-owned store of its kind in northern Colorado, celebrated its 45th anniversary.
Having worked in a famous chain of kitchen specialty stores, I wanted to explore what made shopping at The Cupboard so different — fresh, warm, and relaxing. So I started asking questions and reading about their history — how they began with just a $5,000 investment and a very small store in the Northern Hotel back in 1972. And as a well-loved Fort Collins institution, I believe their story is worth telling.
It seems founder Carey Hewitt and his late partner, were right on time for the culinary transformation that hit the country around the time the Cuisinart food processor was first introduced. This one kitchen appliance revolutionized what was possible for a home cook to create, ushering in the fascination with Julia Child and gourmet cuisine. Just a few years earlier Julia’s ground-breaking PBS show, “The French Chef,” had been one of the best-viewed food preparation shows on TV. Both her TV show(s) and her book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” led to a new demand for gourmet cooking equipment previously available only to chefs.
Among the many loyal employees at The Cupboard are folks who have worked there so long that they can remember current owner Jim Hewitt as a boy. After a long day out shopping in other stores with his mom he was quoted as saying, “This is my daddy’s store and I can touch whatever I want!”
Jim has kept up that tradition. In 2011 he came on board to help his father run the store. And Jim is not the only one to return again and again to see and touch the 20,000 items in 10,000 square feet of retail space. In addition to local Fort Collins residents, “Foodies” from all over northern Colorado plan trips to The Cupboard for their culinary treasures, in many cases unavailable anywhere else.
Many staffers claim great staff and great customers make both working and shopping at The Cupboard so much fun. Those with families appreciate the flexibility to meet responsibilities at home. Some value plenty of variety in their work. Kim notes how wonderful it is to witness a customer’s joy and excitement when they find an item they’ve looked for for years. Several say they love ordering inventory and bringing in new products suggested by customers.
Asked to recall their unique memories through the years, Polly had hand-delivered a gift card on Christmas Eve one year knowing in this case, what that meant to giver and receiver. Steve recalled a woman coming in after 9/11 saying how much she valued an atmosphere in which she felt safe. Patty shared the satisfaction she felt when a woman brought in a friend’s favorite mug she had broken only to find the store no longer carried that item but through research she was able to locate and order a replacement mug and how relieved and grateful her customer was. Dan mentioned the man from Texas who calls from time-to-time to order various products and the interesting talks they have whenever he calls.
Next, I polled a few customers as to what they love most about the store and how far they travel to get there. Adwyn, a musician whose father and uncle are both chefs, visits from Berthoud and especially loves the bakeware and appliances. Tina, who lives nearby, says that you can get a gift for anyone in this store and she believes in supporting small, locally-owned businesses. Sisters, Stephanie and Jessica, local and visiting from the East Coast, love the variety of interesting cooking items and what they offer if you have “the munchies.” And one lady from Wellington shared anonymously, “Coming here has been part of my whole life and my daughter was registered here when she got married — it’s a part of Fort Collins.”
Owner Jim Hewitt adds how fortunate he feels to be working with such great people and over the years to enjoy a sense of extended family through his many loyal customers, some of whom he knew as a boy.
At The Cupboard a beautiful store, involving staff in management decisions, creating a high quality, ever-changing inventory, along with nurturing relationships with customers all go into creating “A Winning Recipe.”
Visit The Cupboard’s website for more information at http://thecupboard.net
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