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The UPS Store turns 25

The UPS Store at 54 Danbury Road serves its customers in many ways, under the leadership of owner John Sommer and general manager Chris Cuhsnick. They also oversee an operation that serves 70 other UPS Stores in Connecticut and three counties of New York, an area where Mr. Sommer has master franchise rights. —Macklin Reid photo

Shipping, private mailboxes, copying, printing and document finishing, notarizing, packaging — a wide variety of services for business and daily life are available at the UPS Store in Ridgefield.

Beginning as Mailboxes Etc., the store at 54 Danbury Road has served Ridgefielders and Ridgefield businesses for a quarter-century.

“I started 25 years ago,” said John Sommer, owner of what has grown to be the regional master franchise that includes 71 UPS Stores in Connecticut and New York state. “In 1987 I opened up a Mailboxes Etc. at this exact location, 54 Danbury Road.”

The idea was to have a retail storefront make access to various shipping options easy.

“Back in ’87, if you wanted to use UPS, you had to go to the UPS depot. If you wanted to use FedEx, you had to go to a FedEx depot. The post office was dominant,” Mr. Sommer said.

“We also provided stamps and did postal services. It was a very small part of our services. … You were able to do printing, faxing, anything a business guy would need on the road.

“When we started, there were 1,200 Mail Boxes Etc. in the country, which was quite revolutionary.”

Mail Boxes Etc. was bought out by UPS in 2001. “We branded as the UPS Stores, nationwide, in early 2003,” Mr. Sommer said.

“UPS wanted to be able to control a retail network providing their services.”

Two years after opening on Danbury Road, Mr. Sommer was looking to grow.

“Rather than expanding into multiple locations, I started by purchasing the master development licenses for five areas in southern New England and New York. …

“It’s called a master franchise. I owned, and still do today, the master franchise of UPS Stores for Connecticut, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange counties.

“Any store that’s developed is done by my organization, my people,” he said.

He owns the Ridgefield store, but the others in the master franchise area have their own local operators. They get training at UPS headquarters in San Diego, but also train by working in the Ridgefield store.

“It’s a very busy store, nationwide” Mr. Sommer said.

“We’re rated in the top 12 franchises in the country, this one in Ridgefield, out of almost 4,800 franchises.”

He attributes much of its success to Chris Cuhsnick, store general manager and part of the team serving area franchises.

“She works with me in the area of developing new franchises, training, support for my existing franchise group,” Mr. Sommer said. “Our business plan calls for anywhere between three and four new franchises a year.”

The UPS Store offers a wide variety of services.

“UPS shipping, number one; postal services, number two; freight services,” Mr. Sommer said. “We have UPS freight services that can ship anything, of any weight, anywhere, and we have shipped some crazy stuff.

“We have 300 private mailboxes here. Every one of those, people or companies that have those private mailboxes, will get some kind of a delivery every day. We not only see UPS delivery, we see FedEx and the postal service … it’s a commercial address. We sort all the mail and the mail is waiting for them here,” he said.

“There’s a safety issue: Your mail is delivered here, your private mail and your UPS and/or FedEx can be delivered to this location, to your private mailbox, and it’s available for your pickup 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can come into a secure, gated lobby and pick up any mail. …

“It’s not sitting outside your house waiting for someone to steal it. It’s not waiting for someone to take your credit card information from your mailbox. It’s all waiting in a secure location.”

The UPS Store also offers “digital printing and document finishing” services. “You can send us an email or bring it in on a flash drive or thumb drive and we can print it out for you,” Mr. Sommer said.

“We have scanning services. You can bring a document in and have it scanned and we can send it to your email or someone else’s email or put it on flash drive.”

If a notary public’s services are needed, the UPS Store will do it. “We have two notaries on staff six days a week,” Mr. Sommer said.

They also offer “shredding services” for old documents. They sell office supplies.

The store ships luggage, and things like golf clubs and skis. There’s a convenience factor, and it can save money.

“The airlines’ charging for luggage has been one of the best things that’s happened to our shipping business,” Mr. Sommer said.

While the secure lobby is always open to mailbox owners, the UPS Store is open 8:30 to 6 Monday through Friday, and 9 to 5 on Saturdays. It’s closed Sundays, except in December.

There are four store employees and a total of seven workers, counting three who work in support of the other area franchises.

The takeover by UPS, with its worldwide brand recognition, has worked out well.

“UPS shipping is our No. 1 profit center,” Mr. Sommer said. “Easily 45% to 50% of every dollar that comes through this door every day has something to do with UPS shipping,” he said. “And during the Christmas season, it’s closer to 70%.”

The shipping is customer-friendly, and professional.

“We do the boxes, the crating,” Mr. Sommer said.

“Currently we’re working with two auction houses, out of New York City. We’ve kept them happy for a period of years now.

“They have entrusted us to ship valuable artwork worldwide for them, and we’ve shipped stuff that’s worth $300,000. You’ve got to have a good relationship to be able to ship that kind of valuable items for auction houses.

“A lot of that is because of Chris, the manager — she’s great at what she does.”

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