Local company goes ‘nuts’ at annual event

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 13, 2005

In the midst of pouring rain and falling temperatures Saturday afternoon at the Peanut Fest, Pam Culbertson huddled under the tent of the Peanut Kids Company store and tried to keep warm. Several of the six-year-old shop’s customers had braved the weather to come and get a fresh helping of peanuts, peanut butter and other nutty offerings, and the gift shop manager and assistant manager Jennie Pond were there to help in a tough time of nature.

Then Culbertson saw a man come into the store, shivering and drenched in rain. The man, she’d later find out, had come from Hawaii and visited the Fest, and wasn’t getting a very warm welcome, literally or figuratively.

Culbertson quickly took off her poncho and gave it to the man.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;I felt so sorry for him,&uot; she said Wednesday at the Moore Avenue store, safe from the rain and wind. A few days after the Fest, the man brought his family by the store and picked up some collectibles before their trip back to the state of islands.

According to festival President James Pond, the fellow wasn’t even the Fest’s farthest-away visitor to try the Company.

&uot;We had people from India, Maine, Florida coming down,&uot; he said. &uot;I never heard one complaint (at the Fest).&uot;

That was quite the task for Jennie and Culbertson.

&uot;We were getting drenched in the rain,&uot; said Culbertson, who only started at the store in January. &uot;We just stood there and looked at each other and laughed.

&uot;It was nerve-wracking; but it was fun,&uot; she said. &uot;I wanted to take the whole store out there. I wanted it to feel like a little country store. I wanted the customers to come in and feel comfortable.&uot;

For only having one full day of sales (the Fest closed early Saturday, and rain knocked out part of the crowd Thursday and Friday), sales were surprisingly good, Jennie said.

&uot;We had $1 peanut jars, and I couldn’t believe we sold all the creamies! We had 10 cases. Everybody was surprised that that’s our regular price; they thought it was just a special Peanut Fest price.&uot;

Now that Mother Nature’s behaving herself again, Culbertson looked toward the future of the Company, which is owned by Producers Peanuts.

&uot;I’d like to see the store grow into its own place,&uot; she said. &uot;If we could move into our own storefront, it would do wonders for sales and make things easier for our customers.&uot;

Since Culbertson arrived, Jennie said, products have been added to the store, sales have gone up, and a new catalog has been created.

&uot;We don’t try to be something we’re not,&uot; James said. &uot;A lot of people talk a good tune about customer service, but they don’t really know what to do. We do a lot of things that we normally wouldn’t do if people come in and ask for special help, like labels and working with fund-raisers.&uot;

&uot;We’re not only about peanuts,&uot; Culbertson said, indicating the shop’s room-full of products. &uot;We have gift baskets for Christmas, other gifts, lots of things.&uot;