January 30, 2019
Cobblestone Outfitters at the Old Ice House: a Family Affair
Written by Cameron Potts
Small businesses always seem to be a family affair. My father owned his own business for more than 30 years with his brother, my uncle. They worked side-by-side, employing other family members, like me and my sister, my cousins, and more.
Mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, life partners, close friends – family takes on all forms. As the Small Business Revolution continues our trek across the country, 85 percent of the business owners we meet are in business with family.
Kyle Norwood and his fiancé, Lori Pletcher, held a ribbon cutting for The Ice House during our time in Durant, Oklahoma. A large venue that had been empty for some time, the former bail bondsmen went all in on the venture when the building became available.
I know, you are lingering over the bail bonds part. In interviewing literally hundreds of small business owners over the last five years, I have never run across folks who used to be in bail bonds. Moving from that profession to opening a retail/restaurant seems like a big leap, but not for two people who have similar interests.
As Norwood explained it, they worked together in the same bail bonds office. Pletcher had more than 20 years’ experience to his two, but once they started dating, they realized they liked to go antiquing and find gems they wanted to sell.
“In the bail bonds business, we found that our previous office had all this room in the front, so we started to sell some of the things we had collected,” Norwood said. “Then we started selling some quirky shirts and weren’t sure if that would sell, but every third person who came in bought a shirt.”
Now, in their new location, the front of the house is apparel, such as golf shirts, t-shirts and sweatshirts, even jeans and other clothing items. It is more suited to men, since there are over 10 women’s boutiques in town, but no men’s clothing stores.
In the back, there is a bar with a small food menu, one Norwood would like to expand. The entire concept is different, and he admits that sometimes people come in and don’t know what to make of the place. “We saw a similar type of set-up in a store in Georgetown, Texas and so we decided to give this a try.
While the ribbon cutting was just recent, they have been open in this new location since November. The foot traffic is good and more and more people are coming in. They close early for a place that serves beer, but as Norwood said, they are in the space 12 hours a day and they need some time to not work.
Norwood said the move from being in bail bonds to retail has been good for both of them. In that line of work, he said people “step all over you” and it just gets tiring. He talked about one 18-year-old client who he paid a bond on, and who didn’t pay him back. He understood the young man needed some time so he tried to make a payment schedule, but he just never paid.
“I told him just pay me like $20 when you can. He said he couldn’t do it. I finally tracked him down and was taking him to jail and he said, what if I give you $200 right now. He had the money, he just didn’t want to take responsibility.”
Norwood and Pletcher see the Ice House just like the city of Durant: with a little push, they will be able to thrive. They are excited for their new venture and for the chance for Durant to be seen as a small business hub.