Business Profiles - Women to watch

October 16, 2007|By DAVE THOMPSON

Valerie Minteer

Valerie Minteer has been involved in the recent creation of two downtown Hagerstown businesses.

Along with her parents, Steven and Mary Minteer, she opened the Cloak and Cupboard Antiques store on Public Square. Then, just over a year ago, the Minteers opened the Bones & Cones Dessertery diagonally across the square from Cloak and Cupboard.

The antiques business was a natural one for the Minteers.

"My parents have been involved in the antique business for more than 25 years," Valerie said. "My mother specializes in textiles, my father is more into furniture and wood."

The Minteers have had several shops in the past, including locations in Richmond, Va., Savage Mill (between Washington and Baltimore) in Maryland and New Oxford, Pa. They were attracted to Washington County following a shopping trip to Boonsboro some years ago, Valerie said. They began looking for a home in the area and eventually became convinced to open a business.


"The architecture downtown was a draw, and downtown seemed to be in motion (toward improvement) at that time," Valerie said.

Valerie had a background in marketing and contract writing that has proved helpful in starting the new businesses.

"Often, the hard part of things is getting all the parties together. For example, contracting with the electrical subcontractor while you're doing the other things you need to do," she said. "You just have to plug away at it until you're where you need to be."

Getting local zoning approval and state and local permits is also part of the process.

With the Minteers' background in antiques, a business plan for Cloak and Cupboard was not a major problem.

"We own the business outright and do all our own research for purchasing. It is not a consignment shop," Valerie said.

Bones & Cones was a completely different idea. The Minteers noticed that when they took their dogs along on trips, it was easy to find treats for the humans, but not for the dogs.

"We thought it would it would be a great concept to integrate human and dog treats in one place," Valerie said. While other cities had "doggie bakeries," those stores didn't also sell human treats.

The Minteers developed a written plan on how it would work.

"You have to have goals and need to understand the area you're in," Valerie said.

Their concept called for natural ingredients and "thinking local" for suppliers. They work with local dairies and chocolatiers to obtain treats. No preservatives are used in baked goods and ice cream. Even pet cupcakes are made with all-natural flour. A pastry chef bakes the treats on-site to control the ingredients that go into them.

"We have some organic things and pick our own merchandise," Valerie said.

Bones & Cones recently passed its one-year anniversary mark. Valerie said the business has been well-received in the community, but has been an ongoing learning process.

"Downtown is really still getting off the ground, and you learn you can't really rely on foot traffic sales. We made the choice, but you have to have a reality check in that it's still more difficult than some other downtown areas would have been," she said. "It's not fantasy land, where money is just streaming in. Time will tell on this."

With food involved, setup work was more complicated for Bones & Cones than for the antique business. Valerie said Hagerstown officials were "incredibly helpful" in helping the store comply with health regulations

"We were dealing with a historic building," she said, "and they helped us with the store layout, getting ceiling and floor approval, etc.

"We love our shop. We think it turned out fabulous. We still like the architecture of downtown and the way that Hagerstown has a small-town atmosphere, but is a large town."

When Valerie talked to H.E.R., Bones & Cones had one full-time employee, with plans to add another, and three part-timers. Steven Minteer helps out on weekends.

Along the way, the Minteers have listened to customers' requests and tried to meet their needs. The business offers a limited lunch menu in response to customer input. There have been "yappy hours" for pets and special desserts in the evenings.

"We've participated in some of the downtown festivals and have found that has helped pick us up," Valerie said. "It's just a constant reevaluation of what you're doing and trying to make it work. You don't give up."

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