Next-gen – again!

Passing down the family business doesn’t always happen as planned. Sometimes, heart-breaking tragedy intervenes. That’s something Stan and Nona Brown of Loganville, Pa., know about.

Scott, their oldest son, was the third-generation heir-apparent of the expanding Brown’s Orchards and Farm Market. In 2000, the market tripled in size, expanding the bakery and deli and adding a candy island, floral department and retail greenhouse.

But in 2005, Scott lost his battle with aggressive brain cancer, bringing transition plans to a screeching halt. “We were devastated and at a critical crossroad,” recalls Stan, already 71 years old at the time.

Scott was widely known as an exceptional orchard manager. Continuing the orchards, vital to the business, was in question. The Browns brought Matthew Etter, an impressive young orchard manager, into the business.

The farm’s market management was also in question, with no other family members at home. Son David had a technical career in Chicago. Daughter Linda had started off the bakery’s future by selling her home-baked cherry pudding at the original fruit stand. But she now lived with her family in Ohio.

“Our market had dependable people to manage key areas,” adds Stan. “But there was no one to replace me.”

Before Scott’s death, David had no thoughts of returning to the farm. While Stan and Nona didn’t want to pressure their son, David already liked making things happen.

“I’d already been envisioning the possibilities if I came back,” he reflects. Within the year, David and wife Mary left Chicago careers for the bustling business in southern York County.

Key Points

• Scott Brown’s death stopped the business transfer at a critical point.

• Youngest son David and his wife, Mary, returned to infuse fresh ideas.

• Successful market expansion is credited to exceptional employees.

Into the future!

In 2007, David and Mary introduced a coffee bar, the Brown Bean Café, with integrated sales system for marketing gift baskets, boxes and more was put into place, along with integrated shipping and a new Web site.

In 2008, Logan’s View Winery was created. David and Stan are two of 18 partners in the venture. Last fall, they opened a wine shop in the market.

In early 2009, a satellite market opened on York’s northern edge, after the Browns leased and renovated the former Shiloh garden center.

Today, Stan Brown is president and general manager of Brown’s Orchards and Farm Market. David is vice president and oversees the newly added Brown’s Farm Market and Garden Center.

With more than 230 employees, Brown’s is a destination for thousands, with parking places often hard to find.

The family eagerly anticipates solving that “problem,” and growing the business with further innovation.

Stan, named a Master Farmer in 1993, and Nona are looking forward to a little more free time.

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SUCCESSFUL INGREDIENTS: Top-quality fruit, foods and, now, farm-raised wines are key ingredients for the Browns’ possible fourth-generation business. Stan and Nona see son David, daughter-in-law Mary and grandson Scottie as its future.

This article published in the January, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.