Rich Cooper Creates Opportunity
Rich Cooper is constantly finding ways to make customers want to come back and to draw in new ones.
The 58-year-old cares as much about the customer experience at Cooper’s Corner in Florence and State Street Fruit Store, Deli, Wines & Spirits in downtown Northampton as he does about the bottom line. At a time when the competition among smaller markets is so fierce, Rich is not your typical store owner.
That’s because he learned the importance of meeting customer needs from his father, the late Russ Cooper, who operated a local dairy and delivered milk to residents in the 1940s and 50s. The elder Cooper would most often get up at 2 or 3 a.m. to start his workday and sometimes not finish until early evening. When Russ operated the dairy, he responded to customers’ calls for bread and cereal in the 1950s. To make it more convenient for them, he began stocking his shelves with those and other products. The dairy eventually became Cooper’s Corner.
Customer responsiveness is one of the family’s core values, and it thrives today.
“It might sound like a cliché but really responding to customers’ requests is one of the keys to our success,” Rich said.
Besides participating in a recent pilot project to better label products in his stores so customers can make more informed, healthy choices, Rich has also made improvements to the physical layout. At both stores he has enclosed the refrigerated produce cases at night to save energy, and he is in the process of installing solar panels to lessen reliance on traditional electricity. While he doesn’t trumpet those efforts to his customers, he knows in the long run they will make a difference in the quality of what he delivers.
Over the years at both stores, Rich has hired quite a number of young people, many of whom were working for the first time. As the father of two twin sons and a daughter, he knows how difficult it can be for young people to land their first paying gig.
“As the neighborhood store it’s important for customers to see that face behind the counter and think, ‘Hey you were my paperboy,’ or ‘I gave piano lessons to your older sister,’ it makes an impression on people,” he said. “It’s also another one of those things that is good for the community.”
Rich impresses upon his managers that when they bring in someone new to work, they have to cut the newbies some slack.
“Our role here is to train them so they like working and that they do a good job. If you fire them after the first month because you think they can’t do the work then that negative experience will stay with them their whole life,” he said.
Rich Cooper has a tender heart, and he works every bit as hard as his father.
He is a man for opportunity.
To learn more about Cooper’s Corner and State Street Fruit Store, Deli, Wines and Spirits, visit http://www.statestreetfruit.com/index.php.