How a Boulder-Based Market Responded to the Retail Revolution
Will and Coral Frischkorn of Cured Boulder talk about shifting consumer expectations
More than a decade ago, married business partners, Will and Coral Frischkorn, became mesmerized by the European style of grocery shopping while living in Spain. There was a slow, methodical manner in which every product was placed and purchased. Without any prior business experience, the twosome set up shop in Boulder and built Cured, a now seven-year-old specialty food market.
Here, we talk with Will about the vision, the execution and the incredible eats:
COLORADOBIZ: WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND CURED?
Will Frischkorn: "Before opening Cured, we were living in Gerona, Spain and fell in love with the small, artisan food shops and the people who worked in them. They had a passion for food, for connecting with their customers and for sharing new finds that they were excited to have on their shelves. When we moved home to Boulder, we realized that we had an amazing grocery scene but nothing small, intimate and filled with carefully chosen products by passionate people. We took a giant leap of faith and decided to try and fill the niche."
"Coral grew up in Boulder and I (Will) had lived here on and off since 1999. So even though we’d both lived elsewhere for periods of time, Boulder stayed at the top of our list as a potential spot to open our shop for a number of reasons (not least of which being our roots running deep in the area): The food scene was exploding (but still with notable holes in the retail side) and the demographic was starting to change with more and more people moving from cities where they were used to specialty markets and were missing them. While bigger cities might have had more potential customers, we loved the local feel here and the desire of our community to support the businesses that are homegrown."
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED? CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU’VE WITNESSED THE EVOLUTION OF RETAIL IN REAL-TIME OVER THE YEARS SINCE OPENING? HOW DO YOU CATER TO SHIFTING CONSUMER EXPECTATIONS?
"It’s been an amazing education as we’ve faced more challenges than we had ever imagined but have learned so much along the way.
Neither of us started Cured with a background in business, food, or retail. We simply loved food and wanted to share our passion. The initial challenges included finding a suitable location, working within the city of Boulder’s building codes and regulations on our shoestring budget, and the surprises along the way that caught us off guard.
Once we opened, our biggest challenge was learning to manage a real team of employees and all that goes with HR (without an HR department). On the retail side, it’s been an interesting adventure trying to cater both to the desires of the general public while also guiding our guests to things that excite us and that we’re proud to showcase and educate people about. We try to stay true to our core, as our heartbeat is built upon cheese, charcuterie and wine, but has hugely expanded to our sandwich and prepared food programs, catering and gifting business.
One advantage we have as a small business is that we can stay in tune with our regular clientele and give them what they’re most wanting while also helping them explore and stretch their palates."
THE SHOP FOCUSES ON LOCAL PRODUCTS – HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHAT TO FEATURE? WHAT DOES YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE INDIVIDUAL MANUFACTURERS, SUPPLIERS ENTAIL?
"Sourcing what we bring in to Cured is one of the most important parts of the job as it differentiates the shop from others in the state and lets us amplify the voice of small, authentic, artisan producers of great products. We taste a huge amount of food in every category we sell, and our final selection criteria comes down to: if a product somehow doesn’t sell, are we happy to take it all home and eat or drink it ourselves?
Our mission is to educate and create excitement around great food made with authentic ingredients by real people, so we strive to fill our shop with products that align with that approach. A product earns its spot on our shelves by being something we think is exceptional, represents a value, and is something interesting to share. Because of this, while most of our products are local as it is our belief that things taste best when they come from a place close to home, we do source from around the world to bring Boulder a little taste of everything.
As the people who often tell the story of a producer to the end customer, we also think it’s important to have a connection with as many of the purveyors as we can – including those whose products aren’t quite to the Cured standard yet to help them improve so we collectively raise the tides of good food."
WHAT'S IT LIKE WORKING SO CLOSELY AS HUSBAND AND WIFE?
We’ve been lucky that our respective skillsets are disparate and complementary. We’re able to bounce things off each other but roll on our focal points independently with support as needed. We also feel incredibly lucky to have started something before having children since when we needed to be 100% consumed by the shop, we were in it together! There’s something amazing about creating a business as a couple and while there are inevitable challenges, it’s a tremendously rewarding big picture."
YOU'VE RECENTLY LAUNCHED A PRIVATE WINE LABEL. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT THAT PROCESS AND YOUR REASONS WHY?
"We’ve spent a lot of time this year working on our private label’s collaborative products. We want them to feature our name but champion the producer who helped us bring them to reality.
While some of our private label line is produced in house, our winemaking potential in Boulder is rather limited. We worked with a friend, whose wines we love and sell in the shop already, to select our favorite barrels that he had in his cellar and bring them to our shop under our own name. Mikey and his winery, Scar of the Sea, is still featured on the back label, but the artwork on the front is from Coral’s mother, Susan X Billings, and the wine is an example of what we love stylistically ourselves.
In addition to being able to call it ours, it’s a great extension of the brand onto our guests’ dinner tables which ideally helps build that much more resonance with what we’re doing. Our hope is that people love it as much as we do and know it’s something exclusive that they can only get in our wine shop."
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS?
"Come up with a plan. Keep passion a core element of what you’re doing. Stay flexible. Be prepared to make mistakes, learn from them, and get better. Be ready to work a lot but find comfort in the fact that when you’re working for yourself, you’re creating something meaningful. This is what makes it all worthwhile – even when the financial rewards don’t align with the effort and hours going in."
HOW DO YOU PRACTICE BALANCE?
"We’re still figuring that one out! We have two small boys, 2 and 4, and they’ve helped force us to bring more balance into our lives due to necessity and because, as a parent, all you really want to do is spend time with your children!
They’ve helped us learn to delegate, build a better team, and trust the people we work with to provide an experience equal or better for our customers than what we could accomplish on our own."
WHAT IS YOUR VISION OF THE FUTURE?
"It’s a moving target as we grow and learn, but whatever it ends up being, it will always include our home shop as our heartbeat – championing cheese, wine, chocolate, and all the prepared foods that we are proud to share with Boulder including our catering and gifting business as components. We frequently discuss other locations and as the front range continues to boom, the opportunities are abundant. We’re just trying to be disciplined and say no until it’s smart to say yes – both for the business and for our lives outside of the shop."