Randolph Retail Company

Cathy and Tom Congdon, proprietors of Randolph Retail Company
Cathy and Tom Congdon, proprietors of Randolph Retail Company

Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut

The Randolph Retail Company opened its doors on June 3, 2010. The opening fulfilled a long-time vision for retired Randolph educators, Cathy and Tom Congdon. “It’s a lot more than a retirement hobby,” Cathy told the Jamestown Gazette, “it’s a wonderful new career and we love it.”

A Winning Formula

Asked about the winning formula for a successful business when so many small town companies seem to struggle, Tom had two simple answers.

“Number one,” Tom said, “knowing that you have to work, to put thought, time and effort into it if you are going to make it. Number two, something people call ‘Stick-to-it-iveness.’ We’re here. We’ve been here a long time and we are not going to be leaving. People really depend on us now. It has taken a while, but our niche is to offer people something good and something different. We have things they’re never going to find anywhere else.”

Good Beginnings

“One day, a while after we retired, Tom asked me, ‘How serious are you about opening a business?” Cathy explained. “I said, ‘I am.’ At that point, Tom told me he had discovered an opportunity to purchase a building we could buy right down on Main Street.

“So we decided to go for it,” Tom added with a smile, “and this is it.”

“This used to be Inkley’s Drugstore,” Tom explained, a business which is still a full-service, locally owned pharmacy, Amish souvenir and gift shop, just a little farther down Main Street now, and still in Randolph. In 2011, the Congdons renovated the sidewalk frontage of the old store to restore it as closely as possible to its original look in the 1800s.

“We started with an empty building 100 feet long and 24 feet wide, and absolutely nothing inside,” Tom said, “… except 2400 ft.² of wide open space.”

Interesting Choices

When Tom and Cathy made the commitment to open Randolph Retail Company someone asked Cathy how they would find product lines to sell.

“‘Being new to retail,” Cathy explained with a smile, “we simply said, ‘We don’t know. But we’ll find out.'” Cathy did a lot of online research and found some companies that were both reputable and did business “in the old-fashioned way, person-to-person.” “We got salesmen to actually bring us products, sometimes entire racks of clothes brought right to our door, so we could look at them in person. We wanted to be very sure of the quality we presented to our customers.”

“When we started we had about an equal mix of clothing, gifts, home decor and jewelry,” Cathy said, “which we have now narrowed down to what our customers tell us they like most. Now we carry about 80 percent clothing and jewelry with a few lines of wonderful specialty products like the most marvelously scented soaps and toiletries hand crafted from goat’s milk, products we’ve carried since the day we opened.”

“In clothing, we carry sizes from small to 2X and only purchase a few in each style,” Cathy added, “so you’re not going to see yourself wearing the same thing as somebody else. And just last week we had people here from California who wanted to experience the Amish trail and stopped in here as well, just to find something unique.”

Ready for Retail

“What we like best about retail is interacting with people,” Cathy said. Teaching was apparently good preparation for presenting new ideas to people and creating enthusiasm. Cathy taught first grade in Randolph Central School for 32 years and retired on her 55th birthday. “I loved every year of it.”

Tom retired five years before Cathy did after having served Randolph as an educator for 32 years. He had taught elementary school for 12 years then switched over to administration as the director of special education. “We met because we taught right next door to each other,” Tom said. “Our classroom doors were only a foot apart so whenever there was a chance to talk, Cathy was always there.” Tom obviously loved teaching.

Tom had also been very involved in Randolph community affairs for years and remains so today as president of Randolph’s library board. He also serves on the planning and zoning boards and as president of the Randolph area Development Corporation.

Motto Says it All

Our motto is “Uptown merchandise – Small-town prices,” Cathy said. “We have quality merchandise, unique gifts, women’s clothing, accessories and jewelry, home décor and a lot more. And we love to meet new people.” Stop in at 127 Main Street in downtown Randolph or call (716) 358-5758.

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.