A Family Affair

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.

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32 Responses to A Family Affair

  1. Carolyn Hill says:

    Great “memoir”! Here’s one thankful customer in Bowie. Whatever would I do without MOMs? In order of importance: you’ve such a grand sense of ethics that includes your whole family, it’s nice to know them a little now, and you write VERY well . . . .though hey, it’s ” SHE and my brother” (not “her and my brother . . . sorry, I just couldn’t help that; my own kids say it like you; it’s your generation I guess). Ask your mom; betcha she knows where “her” is OK and where it isn’t.

    Thanks for all you do, Scott,

    Carolyn Hill

  2. Thea says:

    Scott – MOM’s is the best! Thank you does not say enough! I have been shopping at MOM’s since 1997. Even my family from the Pacific NW is more than impressed (I think a little envious). I love the new Rockville store and am enjoying all the new additions! So glad you were led down this path….

  3. Marie says:

    Thank-you for coming to Bowie GREAT JOB

  4. Peggy says:

    I love MOM’s. Have been shopping at the Alexandria store since it opened. Thanks for staying committed when the going was rough. What a great family you have. Glad to see your success and all the new stores!

  5. Jan says:

    Hi, Scott,

    Congratulations on the new store — it’s beautiful. I probably visit MOM’s 3 or more times a week. I was actually just thinking about MOM’s this morning (believe it or not). I know I can trust the products there, since I know you are a person of high personal integrity. You are always ahead of the curve, whether it’s using energy-efficient hand dryers (that actually dry your hands), compostible bags and packaging, wind energy to power the store, tire inflation, and whatever else you can do to protect the environment. I’m very grateful for that. Keep blazing those trails, I’m sure other will follow your lead!

  6. Mary Ann says:

    I LOVE MOM’S! I drive from Lake Ridge, VA to the Alexandria store to shop at MOM’s. The fresh produce is really awesome. I seem to discover something new I did not see before with each shopping trip. I know the Merrifield, VA store will be opening in the Fall (I am so excited!) so then I will to see which one is closer for me. Either way, I will still be a MOM’s shopper:)

  7. Catherine Turner says:

    Scott, I can’t thank you and your family enough for providing a supermarket with safe, wholesome organic food and green household products (I was about to shop online when I discovered Safer Brand Pantry Pest Traps at your College Park store.) I started shopping at Mom’s College Park 10 years ago when I learned that friends who had just moved here from Verbania, Italy wouldn’t buy food anywhere else. Please stay as pure as you are–America needs you.
    Catherine

  8. CB says:

    I’m another fan in Bowie. Love the store. THANK YOU for coming to us. We needed MOM’s so much. From what I see the store is doing well. I knew it would. It’s a great location that can pull traffic from Laurel and Crofton, to Upper Marlboro and Queen Anne. I first learned of MOM’s when I lived in Mont. Co. Thanks again for realizing Bowie is a great place to do business. And much continued success.

  9. Dena Bergstrom says:

    I held my breath til you opened a store in Herndon after shopping for years in Alexandria. I kept suggesting locations in Reston. I really didn’t want to shop at Whole Foods. I am so thankful that you finally opened in Herndon and wish you all the best with your future plans. I still give suggestions just to make it better and it will keep me from ever going to Whole Foods. People don’t know that whole Foods was financed with junk bonds and drove out many mom and pop health food stores. I love that your store is local, thoughtful and always cares to listen to their patrons. Now if you would recycle no. 5 containers, I won’t have to do that at Whole Foods. Keep up the good work and Thank you!!! DB

    • Catherine Turner says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Whole Foods drove out Gordon’s on Rockville Pike and they’re now about to trash our University Park neighborhood, spearheading the change in zoning from residential to commercial in an area that can’t support it. I wouldn’t set foot in WF even to recycle. Fortunately, UP has curb-side mixed recycling, so I don’t have to consider it. I just hope the change doesn’t damage Mom’s College Park store.

      • Scott says:

        Catherine- the College Park community has been so incredibly supportive since the day we opened that store back in 2000. I used to love working there back then. Everyone was so pleasant.

        When we announced we were opening there, there were many doubters from the real estate community and from some friends and acquaintances of family who live there. People who don’t understand organics underestimate those who do!

  10. Jennifer Vasquez says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us…I moved to VA in September of last year and after being severely disappointed with the organic sections in our commissary I decided to look around for organic produce and found you guys. Your store has been my go-to place, I get excited to go there whenever I put together my weekly shopping list. I love how environmentally friendly you are…allowing us to terra-pass or gas, and using wind power…compostable bags, etc…you are truly my dream store. Thank you for providing healthy foods for my family…for that you have my eternal gratitude. 🙂 I tell everyone I meet about your store, I take all my friends to shop there, lol…i just LOVE your store! Thank you for having the vision to make MOM’s what it is today!

  11. catherine hillard says:

    Dear Scott,

    I love Mom’s. If I ever leave Alexandria, the biggest consideration will be “What will I do without Mom’s?” Thank you for making it happen and for sharing your journey.

    Incidentally, one suggestion I’ve been meaning to make: there is still too much sugar in almost everything. Now that the health risks of too much sugar are finally acknowledged and understood, I would hope that Mom’s could help with education here. I am a big fan of and very grateful for the section across from the veggies and grains that has some chocolate and other treats without sugar!

    Thank you, Catherine Hillard

  12. Chuck,Linn and Christa McChancy says:

    Scott we have know you since the start I saw an ad called you and because you were so kind to help me (after my chemical poisoning left me unable to get clean food ) You told me where to go.Even though I couldn’t afford to have you travel to Thurmont to deliver to me. I believe your one act of kindness to a very sick lady is the reason you have been so blessed.We were so thrilled when we found your first store so to speak and even though we miss seeing you every week now THANK YOU for finally getting us a store in Frederick.
    Linn,Chuck and Christa McChancy

    • Scott says:

      Hi Linn. Thank you for all of your years of support- I think it’s been about 20 now? When you would come into the old warehouse, we would refer to you as the Kale Lady. Chuck and Christa have always been so pleasant too. Steve, our produce manager at Frederick, just mentioned you recently in a meeting.

  13. Ellen Kerley says:

    Keep the dream going – Love “MOM’s” and a special thanks to your family for their support.

  14. Jane and Ted says:

    What a great story!! Scott, not only are you amazing but now I know that your mother, brother, and wife are amazing too. (Wish your brother could do some building for us!) I’m going to take a smidgeon of credit for getting you to open your first store in PG County. We shopped at the Rockville store ever since the owners of the Edgewood Inn told us about you in about 1990-91. It was a long trip on the Beltway so we kept asking the clerks when you were going to open in PG County. Thank you so much for the College Park store, and all the others. We have visited all of them except the Virginia stores and we’re so proud of your high quality and great environmental record. We even got my in-laws to shop at the Timonium store! Keep up the superb work!

  15. Mocha Mom says:

    Congratulations! What a blessing to have such support. I first discovered MOMs soon after I graduated from UMCP and would go to the College Park location. It’s been 17 years since then and now I’m a wife and mom living in Bowie and loving that I have a store so close. We are thrilled that you have not forgotten Prince George’s county. My 4 year old is amazed that wind makes the lights work :-).

  16. Scott says:

    Thanks all- for the wonderful well wishes and support!

  17. Barbara Fenner says:

    Scott,
    We remember when you opened your first store in Rockville, and we drove there from Columbia once a week to shop organic foods. My kids, Andrew and Amber, were very young then, and they thought all food came from Scott’s store. Now, in their twenties, they still appreciate and love organic foods, and they think you are the greatest, Scott. In fact, now they both work at your Jessup location. I couldn’t be prouder.

    Thanks for (in a way) being part of our family,
    Barbara

  18. Larry Plumlee says:

    I’ve been your faithful customer since you were in your first Rockville store next to the auto detailing business. I’ve been faithful because you’ve stocked the best quality organic produce at the best prices. I’ve missed those classical music customer appreciation concerts in Georgetown in those early days, and now classical music is scarce in the Rockville store. Don’t blame me for having old fashioned tastes. Your organic food is making me healthier every year. And I also miss seeing you around the store.

    • Scott says:

      Hi Larry. At that classical music concert, the woman who has posted below you (Heike) did the incredible job catering that event. I still remember the cuisine of the night well.

  19. Heike Albers says:

    Scott, you are making our earth a better place and think you just might have some “invisible wings”. My first great impression of you goes back to 1993. I approached you for some food donations for a benefit dinner event I arranged for sending foods to a Nuclear contaminated area in Russia. You were so generous then and still you were in your own beginning stages of the store. I was so honored when I was able to give back to you and help cater your fabulous customer appreciation event that followed soon. I do not know of any store that has ever done that! You and your amazing family could not be a better example of how things can be. I deeply thank you and your family with much gratitude for your steadfast vision and integrety. I know you will outgrow your Merrifield store before the paint is dry.

  20. Kate Gelhard says:

    Scott: Congratulations on doing such a great job with such a wonderful venture! I have been a customer since you sold organic produce out of your Mom’s garage. The produce was almost always perfect; and it was free if it wasn’t perfect. Who else would do that? Even though I have lived in Frederick County 28 years, I used to visit your Rockville store to buy organic produce. I have watched you grow very conservatively. I am so pleased with how you run the stores and all of your environmental concerns that you use. I am still about 30 minutes from the store in Frederick, but really enjoy visiting it. You have really worked hard and should be very proud. Here’s to (at least) another 25 years!

  21. Kathy says:

    I miss MOM’s. We’ve lived in the D.C. area periodically for 28 years and when I discovered Fresh Fields back in 1993, I was in heaven. The next time we returned to the area, Whole Foods had taken it over. It wasn’t until we bought a house in Maryland in 1997 that I discovered MOM’s (a 15-minute walk from our house) and for three years I shopped there exclusively. Later, when we spent a year in Falls Church, I shopped at the Alexandria store, all the time fearing that the next time I returned, I’d find Whole Foods had swallowed it up. In 2009 we were back in Maryland and back at the Rockville store for a year but soon we’ll be retiring and returning to the West Coast. I’m so grateful that MOM’s has been thriving all these years – aside from the museums, it was the best thing about living in the D.C. area.

  22. Pingback: Storm Power Outages Didn’t Take the Fun Out of Bowie Store’s 25th Anniversary Party! | MOM's Organic Market

  23. So glad your Mom lived in PG Co…had heard that is how we were blessed by the College Park store (I live in Greenbelt). thanks for sharing the story of the store’s origins and the role everyone has played.

  24. Glenn Lohrmann says:

    Scott,

    How the time flies by!

    Yes, I remember you in Beltsville with Organic Farms, before you started your business.

    I remember your station wagon pulling into my driveway at 11pm or later because you knew Paula and I stayed up late.

    I remember your first warehouse, your future wife working the register and my boys (now 21 and 19) “helping” you to stock shelves while we shopped (and now my 19 year-old, Arthur, works in your Herndon store).

    What great memories. Continued success to you Scott.

    Glenn

    • Scott says:

      Hi Glenn! Great to hear from you. And I remember delivering to your first house in Rockville and then your next house in Virginia. One night as I delivered to you in Virginia, you were sitting down with a plate of crabs and a beer- you offered me some and I was SO tempted, but had to be on my way to make more deliveries. Thanks for that great memory!

  25. Catherine Turner says:

    Scott, I’ve already written once, so wasn’t going to again, but I have to tell you how you made life better during the next-to-last power outage. I had hung out at a friend’s house to cool off, and knew I shouldn’t buy groceries I had no refrigeration for, but on my way home I stopped at my MOMS in College Park at 8:00pm, and they still had HOT COFFEE! My friend doesn’t indulge, so I was caffeine-deprived. I know the original name was My Organic Market, but that night it really felt like my Mom’s.
    Thanks so much for being there–
    Catherine Turner

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