Catherine Store changes hands, but won’t change ambience
Post Independent Staff
Rhonda Black just bought Catherine Store, and she jokes that half the valley would love to see her bulldoze it, and the other half would lay their bodies against it to keep that from happening.
“I’m kind of with the preservationist crowd, but I understand the store could be more desirable,” Black said Wednesday morning as construction workers banged around, and friends helped with cleaning and other chores.
Catherine Store, the 1950s-style cinder block structure with a mature grapefruit tree growing inside, is located at the intersection of Highway 82 and County Road 100 northeast of Carbondale.
The store and gas pumps were owned by Lael Hughes since the 1970s, but went through a succession of renters in recent times.
Black, a North Carolina native and retired Wall Street interest rate derivatives trader, has vacationed in the Roaring Fork Valley for years. She bought Catherine Store after “stopping the meter” on “ridiculous” negotiations for a retail space in Aspen.
“I’d spoken with Lael in the fall, and he said he had a handshake deal with a guy,” Black said.
The deal fell through, so the day after Christmas, Hughes called Black. He told her he’d had offers from real estate people, but wanted to sell to someone who’d continue to run the store.
“I love the eccentricity of this place. I don’t want to change it,” Black said as she gazed around the cavernous convenience store where the sparsely stocked shelves and display cases offer disposable diapers, Cracker Jacks and other household items.
Black is an admitted “wine geek” who plans to more than double the store’s attached liquor store, and offer wines for all tastes and budgets, from great $5 bottles of “juice,” to trophy wines. One minute she’s joking that her three-year vision of Catherine Store is to “put a match to it,” then seriously describes the antique oak furniture, rugs and leather chairs she plans to bring in.
“It will be a place for other wine geeks to gather,” she said.
Black’s plans for the rest of the store are still evolving. She’d like to install a grill, because the valley begs for good food.
“But how are we going to have a grill with a tree growing in the middle of the floor?” she asked.
She will continue to sell snacks and other convenience store food, and expand to higher quality products, such as cinnamon-rubbed bacon from Kentucky.
“That’ll be one reason to come here. We won’t turn this place into a gourmet food store, but there will be a handful of products we are wild about that are worth going out of your way to get,” she said.
Black makes it clear she will continue to offer Catherine Store’s best known product – day-old bread.
“People come down from Aspen to buy day-old bread. Put that in your paper,” she said with a laugh.
Black will also lay out the store differently. She points to the motor oil at the store’s prime impulse purchase spot at the front counter.
“Do people come in and say, `Gee. I wonder if my car would like a drink of motor oil today?’ We’ll move the oil to the back of the store, and get the snacks up front,” she said.
Black’s sister, Cheryl Black-Loggins, will manage the store. Loggins has department store experience working with silver, china and gifts. Black is cheerfully confident her sister’s department store experience will translate to a rural convenience store.
“She probably knows more about Baccarat crystal than Frito Lay, but it’s all the same. It really is,” Black said.
Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534
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