Within 24 hours of visiting Prescott for the first time, Fred and Laura Hughes purchased a home.
The owners of Cortez Street Emporium and The Marketplace on Cortez in Prescott had been living in England and southwest France, but found themselves in New Mexico and Arizona in 2001 for an American vacation.
They had one night to kill before returning to Europe and decided to detour to a town they had never heard of (Prescott).
“We just fell in love with the small town,” Laura said. “Plus, we were investing in a lot of real estate at the time, so we liked the idea.”
However, they didn’t officially settle into the new home until 2004.
At the time of the move, Fred had recently retired as a vice president from an international telecommunications company and Laura had not worked since 1997 after a career in hotel management of 23 years in Naples, Florida.
In August 2010, they opened the Cortez Street Emporium. The building had been vacant for a year after Antique Mall shuttered.
“We only decided to open Cortez Street Emporium six weeks before we actually opened,” Fred said.
The couple has since turned their business into one of the more popular antique stores in town and expanded their operation five months ago by opening The Marketplace on Cortez just next door where Pennington’s Antiques and Décor used to be.
Why did you suddenly decide to open an antique store?
We had been antique collectors and we’ve been attending auctions and visiting antique stores for decades. When we lived in London we were fortunate to live just around the corner from Christie’s, and we would attend two to three auctions a week. We also frequented Portobello Road Market and Lots Road Auctions in London and the Vide-Greniers in France on a regular basis.
Would you say the antique stores in downtown Prescott are just as much of a tourist attraction as the historic Whiskey Row?
Without a doubt! Many tourists tell us the shops of N. Cortez have been their favorite part of exploring Prescott.
Why did you decide to expand into the Pennington’s space?
Another impulse decision! Pennington’s had already shut their doors and it was sad having such a large space (and next door neighbor) sit empty, so we thought....why not try it! We opened in less than a month.
How many vendors do you have in each store?
It fluctuates between 50 to 60 in The Cortez Street Emporium, and about 20 in The Marketplace on Cortez. Different style stores, different concepts. The idea behind The Marketplace was to make it more for local and Valley customers, so we feature more staged booths and we have a lot more furniture at that location for sale.
Do you sell any merchandise of your own in either store?
A little bit in The Emporium where Fred is the manager; it is a lot of work just managing the size of the space and the number of vendors. At the Marketplace, Laura sells quite a lot of her own merchandise. Between the two stores we have 11,000 sq. ft. of retail space.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years? Do you believe you may expand even further into the retail industry or could there be another career jump in your future? If not, do you hope to retire doing what you’re currently doing?
Who knows??? We don’t plan that far ahead! As we are both in our 60’s, it is unlikely we will expand further. We currently have three storefronts on North Cortez, as our “side” room at the Emporium was All-Star Sports when we opened in 2010; we knocked a hole in the wall and took over that space a year after we opened. As far as how much longer we will do this.... you never know when someone may come and give us an offer we can’t refuse for two successful businesses — we’d retire then!
Something you’d like to see changed in either your industry or the Prescott area:
It would be nice to see more parking in this end of town and at least a three hour parking time limit (it is currently two hours) on downtown parking in general. Perhaps better would be a pay and display method of paying like in Europe for parking so shoppers can stay as long as they want. New visitors and tourists to the area who are not used to such limited parking time complain to us frequently that two hour parking is not enough to have lunch and shop the downtown. We have the parking garage on Granite Street, but people who buy large packages really do not want to make the trek all the way back to the garage and this oftentimes limits the amount they would otherwise buy in any of the stores on N. Cortez.
Best advice received about the business:
Local auctioneer extraordinaire Jacy Lee provided this, and it was 100 percent correct, but we are keeping his advice to ourselves!
Operating two stores and hunting for merchandise in our off times as well as tending to our animals does not leave us a lot of time for many of these. Before we opened the stores (from 2004 to 2010) we fostered in our home and found forever homes for over 100 dogs through two different local animal rescue groups, United Animal Friends and the Lucky Club. It was such a rewarding experience and we do miss doing this. Yet at home we have seven dogs, two horses, two miniature donkeys, 14 chickens, one duck and one cat, so we still get plenty of animal time. We are state licensed to sell our eggs at the Emporium.
Any accolades you are particularly proud of (for your store, for your brilliance, for your physical ability)?
Fred: Being part of a few teams of people to take start-ups and turn them into major companies. Laura: Chosen for Who’s Who In American Women and Who’s Who in Southeastern America publications for many years in the 90’s during a hotel management career.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
That’s an impossible question to answer. We have been very fortunate to have traveled to so many continents and countries, but probably India - fascinating country that sadly so many people think they won’t enjoy visiting. We have been there three times and would go back in an instant. For relaxing, there is no better place we have found than Bali. There is also a very special place in our hearts for the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, where we still keep a small cottage by the sea. And for flea markets – Paris. (We warned you this was impossible to answer!)
Something most people don’t know about you:
Most people think that Fred is English as he has an English accent. Though he grew up in London, he was born in Ireland to an Irish mother, and his dad was Welsh, so he is really a Celt!
Unfinished life task:
To see more of the world and live to be a healthy 100 so we can do just that!
Professional contact information:
Cortex Street Emporium
113 & 115 N. Cortez St.
Prescott, AZ 86301
The Marketplace on Cortez
117 N. Cortez St.
Prescott, AZ 86301
Both stores have active Facebook pages as well.