Note: This story was published by the Daily Hampshire Gazette on March 18, 2019.
Written by Staff Writer Dusty Christensen.
NORTHAMPTON — Nearly four decades ago, Bud Stockwell and Sydney Flum opened up their own natural foods store on the lower level of Thornes Marketplace.
Shortly after, on Labor Day weekend, the couple got married right there in the aisles of their new grocery, Cornucopia.
“It felt like our first child,” Sydney Flum-Stockwell recalled in an interview Monday. “But kids grow up and leave home.”
That’s exactly what happened on Monday when Stockwell and Flum-Stockwell signed over Cornucopia to a young couple ready to carry the store’s legacy into a new era. The new owners — Nate Clifford, 36, and Jade Jump, 34, of South Hadley — had looks of happiness and surprise on their faces as they signed paperwork, talked with their lawyer and finally made champagne toasts after the deal was finalized.
“They remind us of ourselves,” Flum-Stockwell said.
“Forty more!” Clifford said as many in the room shed tears of happiness.
Clifford and Jump moved to the Pioneer Valley in 2015 from eastern Massachusetts, where they both had worked for a similar independent natural food store — Cambridge Naturals. Clifford took a job at Cornucopia when they moved to the area, starting as a grocery buyer before becoming general manager. Jump also works at Cornucopia, running the store’s marketing and rebranding efforts.
“Nate and I have been dreaming about having our own store since before all of this,” Jump said, describing how the two have been writing business plans for years. “We’ve just been working as a team.”
Several years ago, Cornucopia’s owners approached Clifford and Jump about possibly buying the place. At first, Clifford said it was kind of a “joke,” but things soon became serious. Over the last year, the deal began to take shape.
In addition to Cornucopia, the couple also purchased the Stockwell-owned Heavenly Chocolate, which is located on the main floor of Thornes. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Monday morning was all about making that deal final. Both parties sat at an oval table in an office on the top floor of Thornes, with lawyers, bankers and others gathered around as they moved through the voluminous paperwork.
Jump and Clifford passed their 3-year-old daughter Maya back and forth as they worked, taking turns caring for her after she woke up in the morning sick.
“We made it,” Clifford said as the signing finished.
Things are a lot different now than they used to be when Cornucopia first opened. Back then, it was the only business on the lower level, and the only place like it in the area.
“It was terrifying to be down there all by ourselves,” Stockwell said, describing how they used to buy tofu in five-gallon buckets.
“Not a lot of people were eating natural foods,” Flum-Stockwell added.
That was long before the days of Whole Foods and the natural-foods craze. Today, with everything easily accessible online, the business faces new challenges.
Those are hurdles Clifford said his family is ready to take on. He said expanding the store’s customer base will be a priority.
“I think the challenge becomes how to keep the core set of customers coming here and not turning them off to attract a new set of people who are younger,” Clifford said. Those new customers have a new set of concerns, like plastic pollution, he added.
As for Stockwell, the sale means retirement for him, though he’ll stay on as an advisor when needed. Flum-Stockwell retired eight years ago, having worked as a nutritionist and teacher.
When asked what he plans to do now that he has sold his “baby,” Stockwell cracked a joke: “I think the correct answer is ‘spend more time with my family.’” He said he will continue working on his hobbies like woodworking and gardening, and hopes to become a “superb cook.”
When asked if they’ll be coming back to Cornucopia as customers, Flum-Stockwell didn’t hesitate.
“Always, definitely,” she said. “Every day.”
Dusty Christensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.