It’s been a year like no other here at MOM’s!  Below is a letter I sent to all employees:

I founded MOM’s [Organic Foods Express, at the time] back in 1987.  People sometimes suggest that it must be difficult and stressful to run such a large company- I reply, “No- the larger the company has gotten, the easier it gets, ironically.  The most difficult time was in the first 20 years during start-up, when we’d come to the brink of going out of business every 4-5 years!” And then the pandemic hit…

I’m not sure which was more stressful for me this year- my divorce or being at the helm of a grocery chain during a pandemic!  I tell people this was the most challenging year since the start-up days. 

Taking a walk down Memory Lane:

  • NBA season is canceled, Tom Hanks gets COVID, and panic buying begins!
  • Wholesalers run out of inventory- and manufacturers can’t keep up- supply chain issues ensue.  
  • There was a mass exodus of employees when we needed people more than ever.  HR/Recruiting had to replace more than half our employees- and you were tasked with training and onboarding them!
  • Safety guidance from county, to city, to state, to inspector! shifted quickly and was at times vague and contradictory- and confusing to all.
  • We scrambled for masks, sanitizer, and plexiglass- all for which a Black Market was instantly formed.
  • Conspiracy theories took hold with anti-maskers and you all had to deal with their lunacy daily, if not hourly! One anti-masker’s video even ended up on InfoWars, which led to a live picketed protest in front of our Woodbridge store.  
  • And yes, there were customers- and some employees- who were very afraid- which required patience on our end as well.  Anyone remember the customer who periodically sprayed a fog of Lysol around her as she walked through the Rockville store?
  • During an already heightened level of operational stress, inaccurate media reports spurned politicians to publicly denounce us-  and we were flooded with negative social media comments, emails, and phone calls from across the country.  I felt this fully on a Friday afternoon when I received an email from the PA Attorney General claiming that they had “reason to believe” that we were unsafe (based on an article in the Philly Inquirer). It was hard for them to see we were doing more than any other grocer considering they never stepped foot in one of our stores to see for themselves.  I called a former AG friend of mine and asked him about it.  His reply was, “If they’ve contacted you, it is serious and not to be taken lightly.” Within days, the Philadelphia City Council wrote an adversarial letter to me- and publicly denounced us via Twitter- claiming we were providing an unsafe work environment and not paying “Hazard Pay” (we called it “Thank You Pay”).  Yet, they never reached out to us directly to confirm if what they’d heard in the media was true.

And April 2020 wasn’t even over yet…

For a grocery chain with 1,200+ employees, I would bet that the infection rate among us was well below all other chains.  And my god, the notion of a fatality was terrifying.  We had none, thankfully.  Think about that- with all of our employees and all of our customers and the millions of interactions we had this past year. I feel immense gratitude.

So here we are- over a year later.  Every person has had the chance to get one of the most successful vaccinations ever created.  Science has saved us.  According to the CDC, through May 17th, of the more than 123 million people vaccinated, the reported hospitalizations of “breakthrough infections” (those who have been fully vaccinated) is 1949.  That is a rate of .0016%. And there is very little evidence that vaccinated people realistically threaten to spread the virus to others.

I’m sure you’re noticing every day at the stores that people are coming in for the first time in over a year.  Hopefully, moods are lighter among the vast majority of our customers.  However, I receive about 40 emails per day, sometimes angry- half from those requesting we follow the CDC and local guidance- and half requesting we don’t- and I’m sure you’re experiencing this as well.

We are in a fast-moving transition period which can be confusing and unsettling. However, I witness and am reminded daily of the ‘silent majority’- those who are quietly managing their anxieties and treating people with kindness.

As we transition out of the pandemic- and some of the PTSD we might have acquired along the way- each of you are welcome to continue to take measures that help you feel comfortable- wearing masks, socially distancing, wearing gloves, etc.

In this day of high politicization of almost everything- and even though we are a politically progressive organization- MOM’s will continue to have a culture that rises above fear, misinformation, and demagoguery (from both “sides”)- and remain dedicated to facts, truth, and science.  

[Here is a relevant article:

We will be in frequent communications with you as guidance changes.  

Thank you- for everything.  


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4 Responses to Aftermath

  1. Raj Sukul says:

    Hi Scott,
    Sorry to hear about the bad stuff that happened. What you have to remember is you have something in you that well over 99% of the world’s population do not. Your achievements show that you are a builder, an innovator and a person with drive. You are superior to most of the rest of us and if you were to disappear from the face of the earth today, you will have left a mark behind. In your own way, you have entered the ranks of John F, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, MLK and others. You will be remembered for a long time. Ordinary folks like me watch from afar with admiring eyes and wish we had the smarts to be a fraction of what you are. We are the ones that will be quickly forgotten, you are not. Just keep on being yourself brother. You will find satisfaction and calm, as every storm eventually ends. Chin up!

    [cid:image001.jpg@01D75313.9CDF8FA0]Best Regards,
    Raj Sukul | Maplegrove Instant Meals LLC

  2. Doug Percival says:

    Thank you, Scott, for this article! I would just like to thank all of the staff at the Rockville store where I have been buying my groceries every week for decades. Even with all the “best practices” that MOM’s implemented (which I also greatly appreciated), there is no escaping the fact that just by showing up to work in a public-access workplace, they were putting their health and their lives at risk every day through the darkest days of the pandemic. They are HEROES in my book, truly ESSENTIAL workers, and I am deeply grateful to them all.

  3. Ellen Kerley says:

    Thank you for all that you do. Truly Mom’s is a part of our life that we appreciate every day. Very grateful for all that you and the Mom’s workers do and provide for our community. My husband and I talk about moving when we retire and think – “wait – is a Mom’s near by??”. – This past year has been horrific but we were comforted by the care and thoughtful ways in which Mom’s took time to think things through from top to bottom. I am so sorry that your 2020 sounds more stressful than most of us had to navigate. Please know that Mom’s is valued. Our lives, in fact many many lives are better because of Moms. Thank you Thank you Thank you

  4. David La Voy says:

    I am still a devoted MOM’s shopper, but I have to confess disappointment that you were unable–or unwilling–to arrange shopping by internet. My wife and I are in our 70s and were unwilling to expose ourselves to shopping in person at MOM’s–in effect, betting our lives on your precautions. We felt abandoned, along with others in our most threatened age group. We did, however, gain a new appreciation for Wegman’s, Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh among others.

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