There is a store in Petawawa that captures your attention the moment you drive by it. Yellow in colour the outside of the store features giant stars on the side, friendly wreaths on display, and a table on the porch showcasing seasonal wares. Your visit starts off with a laugh, as the sign at the doors reads: Your husband just called and he said you could buy anything you want. As soon as you step inside, you are welcomed by a cheery greeting and a friendly smile. The wares are unique and attractive, and there is no doubt you will walk out of the store with a new favourite home decor item. That store is The Country Cupboard, a small business owned by military spouse and entrepreneur Cheryl Jordan.
Cheryl opened The Country Cupboard seventeen years ago. Like many military spouses, she has been on postings all over Canada. Whenever they moved to a new place, Cheryl would turn to her crafting supplies and create something for her family’s new home. When the Petawawa native she returned home, she discovered a need in the community for a craft supply and gift store. She took advantage of the opportunity and opened her own business. Cheryl confesses, “as an avid folk art painter, I thought maybe there were other spouses out there who would enjoy learning how to paint, so that became the journey to opening my business. I can tell you for sure that I had no idea what I was getting into and all my mistakes and missteps were learned the hard way: by experience.”
One of the biggest challenges Cheryl encountered was one that any small business owner has to face: staying in business. Many factors cannot be controlled, like changes in the economy, the weather (ie. the drought of 2012), and the increase in fuel prices – all these factors affect local businesses. The Country Cupboard persevered, as Cheryl worked hard to “keep on top of trends, develop new ideas, hire great staff, and keep customers coming back by keeping them foremost.” She also encountered a unique challenge: Petawawa is a military base, so every year The Country Cupboard loses valuable customers due to postings. Cheryl meets this challenge by keeping up with social media platforms such as Facebook to stay in touch with military families who have moved out of the area. The business has a very active Facebook page, and Cheryl says that, “we are constantly communicating with our customers and shipping purchases to them.”
The tagline of Cheryl’s business is “more than a country store”, because you never know what you will find. Her creative team designs many of their products in the studio, resulting in unique and fresh crafts and giftware known as The Country Cupboard Collections. Cheryl explains, “these are seasonal handcrafted designs, consisting of wreaths, signs, pine furniture, and crafts. We have made hundreds of wreaths over the years, and in fact we have designed wreaths for many of our local businesses.”
The store also carries local maple syrup, Madawaska Coffee, Opeongo Mountain soaps, as well as other items made by local crafters. They carry quality brands such as Country Affair Candles, Willow Tree Figurines, and Park Designs. Their Diva Den, which carries purses, jewellery, and scarves, has recently expanded with a new line of clothing. The Neon Buddha is an eco-conscious lifestyle brand, made in Thailand and Canada, employing over 300 women who receive fair wages, benefits, and more. This brand represents issues that are important to Cheryl: that women be treated equally and be recognized for their contributions.
In addition to juggling her business and responsibilities of a military wife, Cheryl also has a very prominent presence in the community. She does her best to support other military spouses by hiring them when she can, and supporting those she cannot hire by connecting them with her community partners. She is a co-chair for the local Women in Business group, is a member of the Petawawa Tourism Committee, and sits on the board for the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association as chair of its Membership Committee. She also volunteers for local groups such as Child Poverty Action Network (CPAN) and Bereaved Families of Ontario (BFO). Cheryl has been recognized for her contributions to the community in many ways, and last year her business received the Reader’s Choice 2012 Favourite Gift Store award and the 2012 Customer Service Award by Ontario Highlands (OHTO) for its outstanding customer service.
Due to her hard work and dedication, The Country Cupboard has been very successful, and Cheryl has established herself as an exemplary small business owner. For those interested in pursuing a business, Cheryl has some valuable advice:
– Have a passion for your business: love what you do and give it your all.
– Be part of a community. Get out there and meet your fellow business partners and make a change in your community.
– Have a support team behind you. Cheryl’s support team consists of her husband Frank, her children Ryan and Ashley, her mother Gloria (also a local entrepreneur), as well as many other friends and family. She also has a wonderful team of staff behind her: Tanya, Krista, Jes, Erika, and Ali.
– Treat everyone who is a part of your business the way you want to be treated yourself, whether it is the customers, your staff team, the delivery people, or the children who walk through your door (Cheryl has suckers on hand for these little customers).
– And finally, her personal mantra is: “There’s no shame in trying something new. I have been keeping it new for 17 years.”
If you live near Petawawa or are just passing through, be sure to stop by The Country Cupboard at 3221 Petawawa Boulevard, or visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/The CountryCupboardPetawawa. It is a visit you will remember.
By Tabitha Duguay
Tabitha Duguay lives in Petawawa with her husband. A budding editor, she is passionate about the arts and literature, and is forever dabbling with some kind of writing.
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