Up North Blog

Meet Rick Burbee

Photo Credit: James Gerndt

If you’ve ever stopped into a Cherry Republic retail store, you have been treated to the artistic eye of Rick Burbee. A merchandising genius with some five decades of professional experience under his belt, Rick learned — and then perfected — his craft at retail giant Sears in Chicago. He’s been working his magic at Cherry Republic for more than five years, dressing our stores with Christmas displays that rival Macy’s 34th Street flagship in NYC and helping us open several new stores in the last few years.

We recently caught up with Rick, who’s about to transition Cherry Republic’s stores for the upcoming summer season, and asked him about his long career.

The Traverse City store festooned in holiday finery.

Q: How did you get your start in merchandising? Have you always worked in this field?

A: After graduation from the Kelly school of Business at Indiana University, I entered an executive management training program. This “retail school” was headquartered in Evansville, Indiana, and exposed me to every aspect of retail management possible. My early career involved assignments in a variety of roles in general store and regional management, human resources, and marketing. My later years were focused on national brand development and trend forecasting.

Q: How long were you at Sears? What was your favorite part of working for such a large company?

A: I was with Sears and Sears Holdings (SHC) for a little over 42 years. I loved the fact that everything was so forward focused. (We planned seasons at least two years in advance of implementation.) I was charged with literally traveling the world’s best destinations to spot future color, style, and innovation trends.

Q: How did you hook up with Bob Sutherland/Cherry Republic? How long ago was that?

A: My connection to Cherry Republic began with a simple email response to a product development job posting on the Ticker. Bob and I met one bright sunny day in the garden in Glen Arbor and had a great discussion. One thing led to another, and I joined the company in May 2015. The rest is history!

Q: What’s your favorite part of merchandising at Cherry Republic? Is there a particular type of project you’ve enjoyed the most?

A: I LOVE the seasonal variety of our specialty business and working with all of our great products. I also love the great people associated with Cherry Republic. My favorite projects are usually based in new store or store remodel projects. I have been personally involved in the new store openings in Frankenmuth and Holland, and the rebuilding of our store in Charlevoix.

Q: Anything else we should know about you?

A: My wife Mary Kay and I have owned and operated TINKER STUDIO on Old Mission Peninsula for about seven years. Life is BUSY, but good, and always comes with cool opportunities each and every day.

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