Peter grew up at 1502 Burrstone Rd. In Utica, NY, with his Franco-German and Irish-German parents and attended Utica schools. Peter was the youngest of seven brothers and sisters. As a teenager, Peter spent a lot of time working for his two brothers-in-law, who were also business owners and entrepreneurs.
In fact, one of his brothers-in-law was one of the early pioneers in the health food industry. Remember also that this was a time when health food stores and vendors were not yet part of the mainstream of American life and business. This was an extremely innovative idea, and in some ways, it is exactly why Peter Corn succeeded in the industry. It got it right at almost the right time when it was new enough that there weren’t many competitors, but not so early that people were ready for a decade. This was Peter’s first exposure to entrepreneurship.
After working in the new health food industry with his brother-in-law in the 1970s, Peter finally spun off his own business, Peter’s Cornucopia in 1985, in the Village of New Hartford in the building that now occupies Georgio’s restaurant. At roughly 1,000 square feet, with a tight budget of a small loan, a little savings, and a lot of hope, Peter launched his fledgling business.
Peter explained that much of their success is due to the excellent locations, knowledge of the industry, growth by leaps and bounds, passion for this industry and the appearance of their stores. Many times, a business will spend many years building a business before making a profit. Peter’s new business only spent about two years in this mode, but even then they were on the mend and were slowly gaining a following.
Also, as an indication of its growth by leaps and bounds, in addition to purchasing inventory on demand, it kept overhead as low as possible. Peter is the positive type of person, but also down to earth. Plan for the worst while expecting the best.
When asked what else helped him become a successful entrepreneur, he explained that it is a smooth mix between presentation combined with a great product. Peter said, “(The) appearance (of a business) means a lot, but it’s also about the community and how you support the community that drives the business forward.”
Peter continues to support local businesses when he finds one that fits his theme, industry and corporate mission. Two of these local businesses are Whirled Peas, by Denise Sachs-Michalanie of New Hartford, and Sammy and Annie Foods, by Christopher Giruzzi of Barneveld. Both businesses will be in a future CyberVillage SpotLight. Others include Toma’s, Owen’s Farm, Chesterfields, Juanita’s Soul Classics, Heidelberg, and Daniele’s Foods.
Peter explains that its evolution was slow and deliberate, but always based on momentum. He didn’t try to rush. He grew the business in the existing office space until it was ready to burst. Only then would it justify the cost of expanding into a new space. This kept momentum moving forward while overheads were kept as low as possible. Peter moved out of the first location after about six years, just down the street at 52 Genesee Street, also in the hamlet of New Hartford. It then grew to 1,800 square feet, but Peter’s Cornucopia was still moving forward and profitable.
A few years later, they expanded to the entire ground floor of approximately 2,500 square feet. Then they could offer a stand up juice bar.
In 2004, once again to burst, it was time to move again. With an office and warehouse in a basement, and Village parking becoming a problem, Peter moved into the New Hartford Mall. Now with 10,300 square feet of prime real estate, Peter has his own office, a real inventory area, the health food store, a juice bar, and a very nice cafeteria with a WI-FI access point. An important note is that the juice bar uses all real fruit and organic juices. This is also one of those little details that Peter thinks helped him grow the business. Quality ingredients are very important to your regular customers. The general population is unaware of the fact that many juice bars use sweeteners and syrups rather than just fruits.
Peter spent a lot of time using local friends / consultants, such as Carl Cuccaro, to ensure that the appearance of the new Peter’s Cornucopia at the New Hartford Mall maintained its natural, welcoming and quality feel. The way Peter described the look he didn’t want was like a grocery store with checkout counters. The store resembles popular bookstores with a cozy atmosphere and a central area / desk where friendly people visit.
We asked Peter what the future holds for his industry and the overall economy. Peter plans to stay in his family business environment and does not see himself retiring. He is very happy with his current location, but if there was an expansion in the future, it would probably be in a larger city while keeping his headquarters in Utica, NY. Peter feels that he has accomplished what he set out to do, with a large and successful store in a great location.
Peter’s view of the economy is that either we hit rock bottom or we are close to it. Peter admits that it may still be a while before confidence returns, but is confident that it will. Peter is not sure that rescuing the big failed companies, while ignoring the small ones, ready to grow, is the best strategy.
No matter which president you voted for, Republican or Democrat, he believes we went in the wrong direction, but we will still recover as a nation, we always do. Peter explained: “Despite claims that increased public spending will accelerate economic recovery, I don’t think so. It will take more time with the government involved, but we will recover.”