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New Cold Stone owners come prepared

For the past seven years, Blair Sundell has sat across the table from moms and pops with entrepreneurial aspirations.

Earlier this month, the business banker joined their ranks, when he and his wife, Ashleigh, acquired Cold Stone Creamery in Medford Center.

"I've been an entrepreneur at heart for a long time," said Sundell, a vice president and commercial relationship manager at AmericanWest Bank, which becomes Banner Bank on Oct. 1. "I was an inventor as a kid and my attitude toward life has always been to think and do things outside the box."

Ashleigh Sundell, with retail management, operations and merchandising experience, runs the popular ice cream shop next to Tinseltown during the day, and her husband jumps in nights and weekends.

Blair Sundell said his lending role provides a 10,000-foot-level perspective on the business world, and an insider's view of 50 to 60 commercial ventures each year.

"Talking with business owners helps me figure out how some people are successful and why some aren't," he said. "Sometimes I look at what I do during my day job as entrepreneurial homework, and (having my own business) helps me relate with my clients."

He looks at the venture as both an investment in his family's future and a bridge to current and potential banking customers.

"Once they found out I owned a business and they were working with a business person, there was a new level of mutual understanding and respect," Sundell said. "They know 99 percent of the bankers they work with don't know what it's like to walk in their shoes."

This isn't the first entrepreneurial effort on Sundell's part. He parlayed his interest in the outdoors and hunting into an online business in 2010, but it wasn't something that meshed with Ashleigh's skills.

BlackSun Tactical provided shooting equipment and supplies for hunters and shooting enthusiasts, but there wasn't an opportunity to take the enterprise to the next step.

"It was very beneficial in learning to manage relationships," he said. "But I didn't want to leave my job and Ashleigh didn't know that business."

Nonetheless, her experience covered most areas. She came from an entrepreneurial family and she has long had her sights on owning a business.

After a stint in the cosmetology field, she moved into retail and was most recently an assistant manager at Earthly Goods in Ashland.

"In the 12 years we've been together, we've been setting goals and moving forward, knowing some day we'd be business owners," Ashleigh Sundell said. "My management skills and his finance skills are a good marriage."

The couple examined a variety of retail opportunities before finding Cold Stone through an online broker. They are the fourth owners of the local franchise, succeeding the longest-tenured operators, Steve and Terry Cullan, who took over in 2006. The Cullans acquired Sophia's Soup Factory, across the shopping center's courtyard, in 2009 and will continue to operate that establishment.

"The transition went much more smoothly than the average transaction," Blair Sundell said. "We had a joint pizza party to both say goodbye and introduce ourselves."

Down the road, Ashleigh Sundell anticipates moving into additional business spheres.

"Sometime in the next five years we would like to obtain a mini-storage," she said. "We're basing our investments on what is going to be sustainable and have great longevity."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.3,  and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

Blair and Ashleigh Sundell are the new owners of Coldstone Creamery in Medford. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch