Ken comes to Cafe Crop with retail in his blood. His great-grandfather and his brother founded Christensen Bros., in 1895 as a taylor shop that eventually became Christensen’s Department Store. Ken’s grandfather, his grandfather’s brother, and brother-in-law continued in the next generation, and his grandfather passed the business on to Ken’s dad, uncle, and aunt. They would have liked to pass the business on, but small retail department stores on Main Street became impossible with the advent of shopping malls. Ken has come full circle, and finds himself involved with retail yet again!
The story of Cafe Crop begins in January of 2009 with the anticipated loss of a job in the corporate world. The team Tina was on was being restructured, and her position eliminated. Every job that was available came with a 100% travel requirement, and she had done that before, and it wasn’t something she wanted to resume.  Unfortunately, that is all her company had to offer.  So, having some idea that she wanted to do a scrapbooking store, Tina and I combined a vacation with a trip to the Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) Winter trade show in California. We rented a car and drove East toward Las Vegas.  We toured the Las Vegas strip, the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon.  I like to see more things by taking a different route back to the starting point, so we drove down to Sedona, Arizona.  All of the scenery was breath-takingly beautiful.  And to think that the Hoover Dam was built without the benefit of Computer Aided Design is quite remarkable.  We took about a week to do all of that, and then drove back to the LA area for CHA.

After their return, I started looking for places to lease.  And Tina kept on trying to find something that wasn’t 100% travel.  By May or so, she had used up all of her job search time.  It was a sad day in some respects, but the results are hard to argue with.  Without this adversity happening, Cafe Crop would not have become a reality.

The process of opening was not as smooth as we intended. As the person tasked with figuring out what locations to pursue, I came up with certain requirements. One of those key requirements was the availability of a high speed Internet connection. You might be wondering why that was a key requirement. Well, our vision was to have what we now call “Craft Retreats”, where our guests would come and spend hours with us working on their projects and socializing with other guests. Part of what makes that work is being able to be connected via WiFi, and if our Internet connection was slow, all of our systems that would make it possible to provide that service would be painfully slow. This one requirement was not met at our first location, and our landlord did everything possible to prevent the one company’s service from ever making it to our building, even though it was required. So, between that, and the fact that our doors always leaked, and we wondered when we were going to lose paper the whole time we were there, we were not able to come to an agreement with our landlord, so we moved out. Our next location was way too small, and very inconvenient for our customers. I was actively looking for a new location, when our agent found our current location. It was just around the corner from the location that we had looked at in 2009. In fact, it was the location that was our number one pick back then.

People don’t dwell on the pain of childbirth, because that’s temporary, and the joy of children make you forget.  And that’s what has happened for the real life people behind Cafe Crop!  They don’t deny that there’s been pain, but the joy of loyal regular customers, and the memories make the pain fleeting.  So if the pain is fleeting, why so much talk of it?  Well, sometimes the pain lasts longer.  Sometimes the child you love is fighting for life against some disease.  The same can be said of a business.  This business.  In the face of a struggling economy, where disposable income isn’t so disposable anymore, there were many who questioned the viability of a retail scrapbooking store.  Our customers helped prove them wrong.

– Ken

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