Two months have passed since Superior grocery store Castles Market quietly changed ownership.
As Ken and Cathy Kuhl head off into the sunset of retirement, a new chapter begins for the Darlow family and the longtime local business.
New owner Chris Darlow’s career didn’t start out with working in aisles or produce departments.
Instead his background in engineering frequently brought him to the Superior area for repairing bridges along Interstate 90.
However, his wife, Krystle Darlow, spent much of her childhood in the grocery stores that her grandparents owned and operated in Spokane. So, when the young couple from Missoula dreamed up the ambition to purchase and run a business themselves Castles was an ideal opportunity.
“We absolutely loved the area and the town of Superior…ultimately, we felt Castles was the perfect fit for our future and the town of the Superior would be a wonderful place to raise our children,” Chris stated.
The Darlow’s worked diligently to encourage the smoothest transition possible.
“Chris was fortunate enough to be able to spend a few months in the store with the Kuhls prior to takeover,” Krystle said. “He spent a lot of time working with all of the current employees, getting to know them and ensuring they were comfortable throughout the takeover process.”
The store was originally established back in 1916 and for the past 40 years the Kuhl family oversaw business. Much has changed in that timeframe which longtime employee, Guy Gould, can attest to. Gould was hired on when Tom Castles owned the store, and has been a friendly face at checkout for 38 years now.
“I’ll miss that this was the last standing family owned business in town, but it’s a good thing that it’s changing hands, new blood and a new young family to continue on with,” Gould said.
Over nearly four decades Gould has seen hand stamps come and go, the use of marking guns for products, and the installation of newer digital cash registers. He mentioned that the most noticeable difference in the store since the Darlow’s started is the layout.
“A lot of our customers have commented and said it feels less cluttered and more open, it’s easier to find things,” explained Gould.
Another fresh business approach that the Darlows are planning to utilize is the popular platform of social media.
“As many of the members of the community know, we have started Facebook and Instagram pages for the store,” Darlow said. Krystle has worked very hard on creating these pages and posting all of our daily lunch specials, soups, in-store specials, promotions, and new items.” He added, “We have had very positive feedback from the folks that have been taking advantage of our social media pages.”
Throughout the store they are looking for ways to enhance what’s already been offered for many years.
In the deli, this will include adding pizza, hot dogs, hot sandwiches, fresh green salads, and more baked food options.
In response to the community’s feedback the Darlow’s have already incorporated a fresh fish department, numerous organic products including cage free organic eggs, organic canned vegetables, and organic butter options along with several new gluten free and vegetarian products.
One of the hardest decisions moving forward is the matter of the stores namesake.
“We have spoken to many community members listening to both the pros and cons of changing the name or leaving it the same,” he said, “In order to preserve the Castles legacy and move forward growing our business in the direction we feel will best serve the community, we have decided that it is best we make the transition to our legal business name of Darlow’s Quality Foods.”
Operationally, the employees and owners have already instated the name switch in daily tasks.
“We answer the phones, refer to in conversation, print on receipts and accept checks written to Darlow’s Quality Foods,” Chris said. “ As far as the Castles décor and iconic signage outside and in, it will take time to complete those costly transitions.
“I think it’s marvelous that Chris and Krystle are here, they have so many great ideas, and I’m excited for the stores future!” Gould said.
For now the stores hours remain the same, the shelves are stocked, and the familiar cashiers and stockers are at work. The only difference is behind the scenes a new entrepreneur is learning the ropes and sits in the front office.
“One thing Ken always mentioned to me is that as a store owner you’re going to have many good days, and probably even more days where you question why you decided to go into this business, but at the end of the day you get the rewarding feeling of knowing you are here serving the needs of this wonderful community,” Chris said.