- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Kyle Gahm
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Kathy Huff, president of CIP Retail (CIP), says she’s most proud as a business owner when she witnesses projects that have met customers’ expectations, and knowing that her team has contributed to the success. “It gives me a sense of pride to see projects we’ve completed, coast to coast, that our clients are still benefiting from, and to see their business is thriving,” she shares.
And that is exactly what CIP has been focusing on for 38 years. The turnkey interior design contractor works hand-in-hand with retailers nationwide to design, manufacture, install and rebrand stores.
Another positive: working with someone you love. Tom Huff, Kathy’s husband, as well as creative director and CEO of CIP, founded the Cincinnati-based company in 1975. “Tom worked for a lumber company that also supplied retail fixtures,” reveals Kathy. “He saw a need for an interior design company that would service the food marketing industry for a number of large retailers and independent grocers. We started by supplying fixtures to the Kroger Company, and eventually expanded toward interior design.”
Kathy is proud to note that she joined her husband at CIP in 1982. “For several years, I was a school teacher, but we decided it was in our best interest to team up and further develop CIP,” she explains. “We’re family-owned and -operated; we have three sons and they all work in the company, as well. Our oldest runs the design and engineering department and our other two sons tackle sales and marketing.”
CIP resides in Ohio, but has covered national and international ground. “We’re strategically located right outside of Cincinnati,” notes Kathy. “Our international presence has gradually expanded. We have clients in the Middle East and just completed a project in Israel. We are working with a chain of stores in Hawaii and Central America, as well.”
CIP employs approximately 80 individuals, each of whom is truly part of an extended family. “We have associates who’ve been with us since the first couple of years we opened,” adds Kathy. “It also brings me great pride to watch employees grow and their family flourish, because we’re all very focused on a common goal.”
CIP performs a wide range of planning, design, manufacturing and fabrication services in-house, consolidating and streamlining all functions. “We have an in-house design and engineering department, manufacturing equipment and our own large-format, roll-to-roll printers; the only thing we don’t accomplish in-house is metal or steel work,” shares Kathy. “Keeping things in-house cuts our costs, and increases efficiencies.”
With a full range of turnkey services, CIP can offer as much or as little as a job calls for. “We can be whatever the customer wants, from designing a small independent operator to multiple stores and locations,” notes Kathy. “Some of our biggest clients are large national retailers like Rite-Aid, Winn-Dixie and Kroger.”
In 2012 CIP worked on rebranding Sprouts Farmers Market’s 47 nationwide stores over the course of just five months. “We were traveling from California to New Mexico, Oklahoma to Texas and Colorado, doing surveying, design, manufacturing and delivery,” recalls Kathy. “Within a five-day period we could totally revamp each location with a completely fresh look.”
Later, in January 2013, the company began remodeling the interior of Tops Friendly Markets’ Orchard Fresh store, a trendy upscale supermarket like no other in the Buffalo area. “They came to us seeking a new concept and we capitalized on their criteria to do just that,” Kathy says. “We enhanced the produce department with wooden fixtures to give the shopper a fresh from the garden feel.”
Attention to Detail
CIP has also performed a great deal of work for Dave’s Fresh Marketplace (Dave’s), a unique Rhode Island-based grocer. With nine locations throughout New England, every Dave’s store is designed to match the history, architecture and demographics of the area, which is where the CIP team comes in.
Dave’s approached CIP to redesign the supermarket’s East Greenwich location. “We needed to reflect the town’s rich history as the birthplace of the U.S. Navy and a manufacturing hub for textiles, machinery and shipbuilding,” explains Kathy. With meticulous attention to detail, CIP created a replica of the town’s vibrant main street, matching the city streets with the store’s signage and a photo collage of historic navy scenes.
However, the past 38 years haven’t been completely smooth sailing for CIP. The onset of the recession forced the family-owned company to be more lean and conservative than ever before. “We went down to barebones, but in the big picture it honestly made us more productive and competitive as a result,” admits Kathy. “We’ve always been a financially strong company.”
No matter what the economic climate may present, Kathy says holding on to trusted, core employees has kept CIP afloat. “Our people give a sense of continuity that makes our clients feel very comfortable in our capabilities,” she adds. Since 1975 CIP Retail has delivered stylish, thoughtful spaces that promote identity and quality and allow retailers’ products to shine.
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