Faces of New Canaan: Grayson Cordes


Many locals will know Grayson Cordes, a 2011 New Canaan High School graduate, as the manager at Walgreens on Pine Street (he’s been there six years) who recently was honored by the New Canaan Police Department for his vigilance in the store, which helped authorities nab a fraud ring that had come into town.

Grayson Cordes, left, receives a Civilian Service Award from New Canaan Police Chief Leon Krolikowski on Sept. 18, 2014. Cordes' alertness and quick action led to the arrest in July of three out-of-state residents arrested for conspiracy to commit sixth-degree larceny. Credit: Michael Dinan

Grayson Cordes, left, receives a Civilian Service Award from New Canaan Police Chief Leon Krolikowski on Sept. 18, 2014. Cordes’ alertness and quick action led to the arrest in July of three out-of-state residents arrested for conspiracy to commit sixth-degree larceny. Credit: Michael Dinan

We at NewCanaanite.com first heard from Grayson—out of the blue—back in August, following the first report of a “reptile” sighting at Mill Pond that local police suspected was an alligator turtle (something like that would turn up about a month later on East Avenue).

Grayson let us know that he’d seen the story of the reptile and that, soon after, a man came into Walgreens with what appeared to be a small alligator turtle and spoke to him for 20 minutes or so about the creature. More than that, Grayson had the man’s information and photos of the reptile.

The NCPD issued its “Civilian Service Award” to him shortly after and Grayson reached out about the possibility of contributing to NewCanaanite.com—something we talk about in our conversation (transcribed in full below, for this our latest installment of Faces of New Canaan) and hope soon to showcase.

Grayson Cordes. Credit: Michael Dinan

Grayson Cordes. Credit: Michael Dinan

The last thing I’ll say before presenting that exchange is that Grayson is quite an impressive young man, paying his own way through UConn by managing full-time at Walgreens while taking classes, and in just a few years he’ll have a degree from the university—the very same one, he notes, that kids who went on to the Storrs campus are earning now.

Meet Grayson Cordes.


New Canaanite: So you’re a 2011 NCHS grad and you’re in school right now?

Grayson: Yes, Stamford UConn branch.

UConn branch. And you are planning to graduate when and with what degree?

2017. I’m in the business program now but I could still go two ways. I could go economics or I could go business administration. So—

—So tell me about your path since high school graduation. Did you start at Stamford UConn right away?

Yeah I went there started in the fall, just like everyone else in my class. And just continued ever since.

And have you been working locally or working at Walgreens since graduation?

I have been working at Walgreens since I was legally able to which is when I was 16. So I’m in my sixth year now. So I’ve been there for a while.

How many hours a week are you working?

Because of my position, I have to be full-time there. So it’s usually 40, 45 hours.

So you’re full-time there and you’re also a full-time student?


So you’re a busy guy.

Yeah, you know, it’s a lot to balance out.

You know, in New Canaan there are a lot of local kids who simply go off to college and maybe they have a work-study job on campus. But you’re taking a path where you’re living here at home, you’re getting the same degree that other people are. At the end of it you’re going to come out with the same degree, and you’re probably going to go come out of it with no debt. Is that the idea?

That’s definitely the idea I am taking right now. It’s interesting, going to a branch, a lot of people, they don’t think it’s the same kind of degree. But when you graduate it says ‘University of Connecticut’—there’s no ‘Stamford Branch’ or anything attached to it—it’s the same as going to UConn, which is a top-20 school, minus all the tuition. I would say the only negative, really, is probably the social life. Because on any college campus, you have Greek life, you have many more clubs, everyone has their own house, so there are many more parties and stuff like that. But the more time I have, I am able to visit all my friends at school, so I’ve been able to get a window into all these different colleges and universities. I’ve been to Charleston, I have bunch of friends there. I’ve been to visit Vermont, a couple of friends up there. And I’ve been to Miami University, I have friends there. Whenever I travel, I always have places to stay, I don’t have to pay any rent or anything for a hotel.

That’s cool.

But that’s the one negative aspect I would say.

Is socially?

So tell me about socially in New Canaan as a young 20-something. What is there? What are you doing?

At Stamford I have a group of guys and girls and we study together and we’ll go out in Stamford. There’s only so much you can do in Stamford. There’s only so many bars you can go out to. I have a couple of buddies that go to Fairfield [University], so I’ll go up there sometimes and hang out.

What are your aspirations, professionally? You are pursuing a business-related degree, whether that’s BA or Economics. What is your vision for beyond UConn?

Really I had no idea but after working at Walgreens for so long, you kind of get comfortable with the system. I really like retail operations. Ideally I’d like to work at a company that is big on employee ethics. I do a lot of research into that aspect. I think that’s a big part of businesses and one of the reason that some companies tend to do really well and have low turnover rates is that they pay their employees well and have great benefits and in return it drives their sales.

It’s a good customer experience when the employees are content. And you’re interested in that part of business?

I’m interested in that part of business and I’m not sure what is in that kind of area. What kinds of jobs are out there that deal with that. I just think that is part of the job I would get.

Could be a consultancy or something, where you’re hired to go and address needs of companies that have higher turnover than they want, or you become an expert in that area, even become a professor who is an expert in that, you know?

Yeah. At this moment, I know I want to go in that direction.

Grayson Cordes ca. 2004, member of the New Canaan Youth Football 5th grade white team. Contributed

Grayson Cordes ca. 2004, member of the New Canaan Youth Football 5th grade white team. Contributed

Tell me more about you in New Canaan. How long have you lived here?

Lived here pretty much my whole life.

‘Pretty much’? Where were you born?

Stamford Hospital. We lived in Wilton for maybe two years and then moved to New Canaan when I was about two.

What schools did you go to here?

I went to West, Saxe and the high school.

Siblings? Brothers, sisters?

New Canaan's Grayson Cordes, left, with siblings Morgan and Byron, ca. 1999. Contributed

New Canaan’s Grayson Cordes, left, with siblings Morgan and Byron, ca. 1999. Contributed

One of five. I have two older siblings. One of my siblings graduated from Virginia, one of my siblings she works in the city for a fashion designer. I’m the middle child. My two younger are one goes to Indiana and one is a sophomore at the high school. So we are pretty spread out.

Tell me a little about you and town. Were you an athlete at high school? Were you involved in any local clubs or organizations? Did you get into SLOBs or anything like that?

Yes, I did SLOBs. Most of my friends were involved in that. It was a great organization for the town. We did a lot of good things. It’s things that a lot of people were interested in. It’s not an organization where you are like, ‘Ugh, I have to go to this.’ It’s a thing you look forward to. I was a three-season athlete. My main focus was track. I did cross-country, indoor and outdoor track.

So you were a runner, all three seasons.

2011 NCHS Indoor Track Team, state champions—the school's first since 1951, team member Grayson Cordes says. Contributed

2011 NCHS Indoor Track Team, state champions—the school’s first since 1951, team member Grayson Cordes says. Contributed

I did hurdles. Except for cross-country, I did that just to stay in shape for track season.

And tell me a little bit about your thoughts on the town. You pretty much grew up here your whole life. You went to the high school here, and now you’re working here. You are seeing the town as a young adult, you have seen it as a teen, as a child. You’ve seen it from some different perspectives, more than a lot of people have. A lot of people who grew up here and went to high school here leave and then don’t come back except to visit. Many of the people who work in town live elsewhere or at least grew up elsewhere. What are your thoughts on New Canaan?

I think I’m very proud of it. I think that a lot of people take for granted the education that you get, but when I went away to Stamford, I really didn’t recognize the value of the education until I went away to college and I saw, I mean I don’t want to sound ignorant to other towns—

—You don’t sound that way. You were positioned to succeed in college because of a strong foundation.

Right. Because New Canaan generates a lot of tax revenue and a lot of that goes toward education and rightly so. The people that taught me at the high school, they laid the groundwork for my future, and I’m very grateful for that.

I want to ask you, too, about this personality trait you have. When I first heard from you, we reported on the sighting of an alligator turtle by a nanny down at Mill Pond, and then out of nowhere I get this email from you about a Scottish biologist and ‘I have this background and here’s a photo.’ You seem like a very vigilant observer.

I think also I am pretty outgoing, and I think I’m an approachable figure, at least inside the store. And people I’ve never met will come and talk to me and tell me too much stuff a lot of the time. And I think maybe that guy was a little kooky. He comes into the store and asks can he leave this big bag behind the counter. I wasn’t sure what was inside it but I said, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll watch it’ or whatever. He goes to the bathroom and comes back like 10 minutes later, buys a pack of cigarettes and then I hand the bag back and say, ‘What’s that, did something just move around in there?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, I just got this turtle’ and he stayed another 20, 30 minutes just talking about turtles. I never imagined I’d have a full-on discussion about that.

Who knew that Walgreens was such an interesting experience of humanity?

I think it’s a good sample size of New Canaan that goes in there, sort of a microcosm of everybody. You see all sorts of characters.

What do you think it is in you that makes you so approachable? Have you always been one of those people?

I don’t know. I guess I am one of the younger people there. I’m not sure that has anything to do with it.

What about your powers of observation—where does that come from? Is that from being a middle child? Have you always had that?

I’ve never thought about that, to be honest. I have no idea.

Well, what do your parents tell you?

With regard to that?

If anything.

I mean, they all came to the ceremony so they were all there to support me. They are proud of me.

They must be proud of you for what you are doing now, you’re not saddling them with anything for later, and that’s a good example to set. Do you picture yourself somewhere geographically? You have an idea of your profession but what about where you might want to live?

I think it’s really come down to that I love New Canaan. Eventually I would love to full-circle come back here. It is a great town for so many reasons, the education and the people. I guess it really is wherever my profession leads me to?

Let’s ask a personal question: Do you have a significant other?

Not at the moment. I have in the past, and that’s kind of what got me into the journalism side. I was never into it until I went to college in Stamford and they had a newspaper there and this girl that I was kind of hanging around with was involved, she was the head editor, she was in my grade—

—What’s the paper called?
I think it died with her. You know a lot of kids transfer out, she went on to another school.

But she had a paper she ran that was specific to the school?

It was called ‘The Stamford View’ and so we were seeing each other at the time and I said I would join it and I didn’t realize at the time but I enjoyed it.

What did you like about it?

I just like how you can tell your own story, from your perspective. You can put a lot of yourself into it and that is probably what I enjoy the most about it. You can get your opinions out there, and people can agree or disagree.

Any particular stories you wrote that you remember well or fondly?

I did mostly entertainment for it. Everyone had their own columns and wrote about entertainment, mainly.

What about your contributing to the New Canaanite, which we’ve talked about. A bunch of people will see that probably not long after this installment of ‘Faces’ appears. What are you looking forward to in terms of being a contributor to New Canaanite?

I definitely want to show a side of New Canaan that people may not be too familiar with. Stories that kind of present New Canaan as—not sure where I’m going with this—little hidden gems and bringing the beauty of New Canaan to the forefront.

I’m psyched for your contributions. I think they will be well-read and it’s a very ‘insider’s view.’

Right, I think with my perspective of going through the school system and all that, that I can bring an angle that is unique.

Give me something that people who are reading this ‘Faces of New Canaan’ installment may be surprised to learn about the town that you know. Anything.

Surprised to learn about the town? Trying to think right now. Let me think for a second. I guess when I talk to kids at college now, they talk about high school and they feel like their after-school activities were limited outside of sports. They would just go to movies or the mall every night. But in New Canaan, you have a lot more to do. Your junior or senior year, you may find yourself on the train going into the city to see concerts or sporting events, stuff like that. Or you may go on a few vacations with your friends. You really take it for granted.

You mentioned hidden gems of the town. Give me one.

The town’s preservation is something that may fly under the radar with a bunch of people. Really they did a great job preserving parts of the town. Irwin is a nice public venue now. Waveny is kind of like New Canaan’s Central Park. That’s a tough question. Sorry.

Tell me something about you that people who may know you from Walgreens may be surprised to learn. Could be a hobby, an interest, an experience. Anything.

Let’s see. For a hobby, I’m into computers and websites and stuff like that. In high school, I used to go on market places and buy websites that people were selling on the cheap, and build them up. I was on a team of people—a designer, a coder, myself—and we would buy a website and flip it for a profit.

So someone would have a business, or a website?

Like one I sold years ago: needasig.com. I bought this really cheap. It lets you generate signatures and people like the service. We turned the site around and sold it.

So you’re a coder? You know how to program?

I know three languages. There’s Javascript and HTML, pretty basic stuff that everybody has to learn.

And you taught yourself that stuff?

Well, I had a bunch of help along the way from people with the same interests.

Wow. Impressive. Very impressive.

One thought on “Faces of New Canaan: Grayson Cordes

  1. Excellent interview, Michael, and a very impressive young man. This young man has a bright future. Congratulations, Mom and Dad!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *