As we come up on our 25th year anniversary (first sale was made July 2nd, 1987), I have been doing quite a bit of reflecting. I think of how my family has cheered me on and supported my efforts all these years:
- When MOM’s was started, I did not have a car, but I had a business partner who had a car. After 4 months, I bought him out- and I needed a reasonably priced car fast! My sister, who had a Chevy Malibu wagon, sold me her low-mileage car for only $1000.
- When I first set up shop, it was in my mom’s garage- and, I lived at my mom’s house. She let me set up my office in her basement. And, she let me stock my inventory in her garage (I spent the better part of a week cleaning it out!) and lent me $2000 to get up and running.
- Within a year, I outgrew mom’s garage and leased a 900sf warehouse in Beltsville (I had paid my mom back the $2K, but now I needed to re-borrow $3K). I bought a used walk-in cooler, but was told that since there were warehouses beneath me, I had to install an insulated floor to prevent water condensation from dripping down onto the folks beneath me. Enter my brother, who is very handy at building things- who slapped together an insulated floor for me in about a day! I also attempted to paint the exposed cinder blocks with a paint roller which took forever, until my brother went to an equipment rental place and got a spray painter and knocked the job out in no time.
- After being open for a couple of years, I remember coming home from a long night of home delivery and my mom was having breakfast. I walked in, she fed me, and I said “I sold 100lbs. of carrots this week!” She replied- “And to think, this all started in my garage.” We were both proud.
- Working long hours alone in a warehouse for a couple of years in my early 20’s was sometimes lonely. Most of my friends were graduating from college and getting jobs in offices, wearing suits and ties, and attending office happy hours every Friday- and I was starting to have doubts about being a sole proprietor. My brother, who might have been sent by my mom, came up to my warehouse one late night while I was working and gave me a pep talk to keep at it.
- In 1990, I made a big move to Rockville to a 2000 square foot warehouse, where I intended to start selling retail to the public. I had about $20,000 saved up for the entire venture. Checkout counters cost about $2,000- my brother built one for me for just a couple hundred dollars- and added paneling to some exposed drywall to help spruce the place up a bit.
- At that same time, my then girlfriend (now, my wife) worked late into the night helping me paint the floors green. We had a tough time with it because it was a very humid/muggy night (we had no air conditioning) and the paint was taking forever to dry. She also helped run the register and run the store while in between semesters at law school. And there were the all-nighters making deliveries when she would tag along to keep me company.
- On our first day open for retail, I was in the back and my mom was at the front manning the register. We opened at 9:00- and at about 9:02, my mom came back to tell me we had a customer. I basically panicked, shooed her away, and told her to get back up front and that “it’s not a big deal.” It was a VERY big deal.
- Mom took a look at my produce display that first week we opened and decided I wasn’t doing it right. She then proceeded to teach me how to hydrate and store vegetables properly- and how to properly prep them.
- Once, my mom thought I was about to burn out since I was only taking major holidays off- and she and my brother ran the store for the first time ever, forcing me to take a day off.
- In the late 1990’s when I was still setting the produce department at our Rockville store, I once woke with a high fever. I got in the shower and blacked out. My wife put me back in bed and went in and opened the produce department for me.
- For years, mom did the bookkeeping for the business. Also, she is rather obsessively clean and would spend hours cleaning the place from top to bottom.
To this day, when my mom and I talk, she gives me an earful of what she thinks about whatever MOM’s store she has recently visited. She still gets CCed from our accounting department on all bookkeeping related emails.
As we just recently moved our Rockville store, my brother built all of the wellness shelving, beer/wine shelving, customer service desk, bulk display units, and much more. He also has done the original architectural drawings for our Herndon store, our Rockville move, and 2 upcoming new stores. He lived in Malaysia for a while and when I need drawings for a store, he would Skype with me and do the drawings from the other side of the planet.
My wife continues to offer her feedback regarding her shopping experiences at MOM’s, products, employees, etc. She also frequently sends me environmental information and business articles that are useful to me.
It’s not fair that I get all the credit.