July, 1995–the world was such a different place back then. Comet Hale-Bopp was discovered and there were two Space Shuttle landings. Forbes Magazine named Bill Gates the richest man in the world with a net worth of only $12.9 billion. (Currently he’s in second place with $113 billion.) On the local sports scene, the Phillies’ Richie Ashburn and Mike Schmidt were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And in the sleepy, bedroom community of Hockessin, Delaware, Harvest Market opened its doors for the first time.
When I started Harvest Market in 1995 I had no idea what the future would bring–no idea that Harvest Market would grow over the years through three locations to become one of the largest employers in town with a staff of more than sixty. No idea that the no longer fringe, but not quite mainstream natural and organic foods movement would become the fastest-growing subset of food sales in America. And certainly no idea that a quarter century down the road we’d be cashiering behind plexiglass shields, while wearing face masks and politely socially distancing from each other by at least six feet. Oh, for the good old days. The first genetically modified commercial food–the Flavr Savr Tomato–had just come out the year before we opened and was well on its way to its inglorious and “flavr-less” end. Of course the GMO industry did bounce back from that early failure and now dominates a raw materials market that feeds the world a steady diet of corn and soybean-based processed foods.
From the beginning we have had our share of ups and downs. Certainly being told the night before our grand opening that our lease was being contested by a competitor was no fun, as were the downturns in sales caused by both the recession of 2008 and the opening of They-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named in 2014. And I will never forget the day that one of our employees came bursting in the back door with a radio and said, “You’ve got to listen to this,” as accounts of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were first broadcast. We closed early that day and then began adapting to the new normal.
Of course there have been many more highlights. Winning 10 Delaware Today Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards during a recent ten-year span was gratifying, as is winning another this year as an Editor’s Choice pick for the Natural Food Market with the Best Variety–Upstate. Our move to Lancaster Pike in 2005 and the opening of our award-winning grab-and-go kitchen in 2013 have also been rewarding milestones that have contributed to our success. Now, in 2020, we are emphasizing employee and customer safety during this time of pandemic-induced uncertainty, while still providing the nourishing, sustainable and delicious foods we are known for to our community.
To our current (and many former) employees, I thank you for all you have contributed over the years to our success. To our customers, I thank you for your continued confidence in us as your trusted source for natural and organic foods and nutritional supplements. All of us, together with our many farmers, manufacturers and distributors, make Harvest Market the community grocer we all know and love. Let’s see what the next 25 years has in store for us.
Founder & C.E.O.