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Fresh Produce Is At The Heart Of The Boney Family

8th December 2012 Paul Andrews

For nearly 70 years, the Boney Family has been synonymous with fresh produce and the family values are still important today.

For nearly 70 years, the Boney Family has been synonymous with fresh produce, great prices and old-fashioned customer service. And today those family values are alive and well at Sprouts Farmers Market, the latest and most successful iteration of a business that began with very humble roots.
 
Henry Boney was a strapping young man from the West Texas town of Kress, where he grew up poor, selling cream from 20 head of cows the family owned to generate a meager income. Like many people in the Dust Bowl era, he moved to California seeking better fortune. He arrived there in 1934 and did what he could to make ends meet, including driving an ice cream truck for Arden Dairy. Through that job he met Jessie Grame and married her in 1943, at the age of 29. The newlyweds then borrowed $600 from her parents to buy a pickup truck, and used that to haul some peaches down from the orchards of Julian. They opened a fruit stand at the corner of 71st and El Cajon Boulevard near La Mesa...and a tradition was born. (True to the family's high ethical standards, they also paid her parents back within three weeks!)
 
Henry was a food retailer, a man who, because of his earliest roots, cared deeply about making fresh foods affordable to everyone. Over the years, Henry Boney and his family would start and sell many retail businesses, including Speedee Mart (the original convenience stores, eventually sold to Southland Corporation, parent company of 7-Eleven), Boney's, Bradshaw's and Superama. Though he lived his life as an entrepreneur through and through, it was never about making money. "It was always for the sense of accomplishment and the way this business makes us feel," he once told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
 
Mr. Boney was also well known in San Diego political and charitable circles, and was elected to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, to the Boy Scouts of America (as Lieutenant Governor), and to the San Diego Chamber of Commerce (as President). Governor Ronald Reagan once persuaded him to run for a state senate seat, but when he lost he settled into a more comfortable life that included travel to more than 80 countries.
 
The second generation of Boney's stores were opened in 1969 by Henry's sons, Stan, Steve, and later, Scott. The name was changed to Henry's Marketplace in 1997, in honor of the family patriarch...and that's where things got really complicated. The Boney family ran Henry's until 1999, when the stores were sold to Wild Oats Markets, Inc. Stan, his son Shon, and family friends Kevin Easler and Scott Wing all worked for Wild Oats for a time, but eventually left and, to avoid the terms of a non-compete agreement that prohibited them from running stores in California, moved to Arizona to found Sprouts Farmers Market. The first store opened in Chandler, AZ in 2002.
 
Under the leadership of Stan and Shon Boney, Sprouts grew rapidly – and, from afar, that made Henry and Jessie Boney exceedingly proud. Henry eventually passed away in 2005.
 
In 2007, Whole Foods Market, Inc. purchased Wild Oats and sold the Henry's stores to Smart & Final Holdings Corp., which in turn was purchased by Apollo Management, one of the world's largest private equity firms.
 
In 2011, Apollo bought a controlling interest in the 63-store Sprouts, and Smart & Final sold Henry's to Sprouts...effectively reuniting two companies that had been founded by the same family, years apart. At the time, Henry's was operating 43 total store locations, comprised of 34 stores in California and nine stores in Texas operating under the Sun Harvest banner.
 
The merger was, in every sense, a "natural fit." The stores share more in common than their lineage. Both Henry's and Sprouts are farmers market-style grocery stores, with an informal, wide-open store design and a strong emphasis on fresh, high-quality produce at a great value. Averaging about 28,000 square feet in size, the stores are easy to shop and navigate yet still have extensive offerings in virtually every major category (produce, grocery, dairy, frozen, meat, seafood, bakery, deli, bulk, vitamins, body care, household products, beer and wine) – largely natural and organic. All of these elements have been hallmarks of the Boney family's retail establishments since the very beginning.
 
"For all the businesses he built during his career, my father would marvel at the efficiency with which we bring produce and natural foods to so many customers today and at such a good value," added Stan Boney. "And now, by reuniting these stores that he inspired, we're getting even better at it."
 
Sunflower Farmers Market has recently joined Sprouts' growing family of stores, bringing two leading grocers, specializing in fresh and natural foods, together under the Sprouts Farmers Market banner. The addition of Sunflower's 35 stores expands Sprouts' geographic footprint in Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Oklahoma and further extends its presence in California, Arizona, Colorado and Texas.
 
By the end of the year, we will have about 150 stores and nearly 11,000 employees serving customers in eight states! That’s an amazing accomplishment, given that both Sprouts and Sunflower are just turning ten years old.
 
Even though Sprouts has become one of the fastest growing retailers in the United States, and an important player in the natural foods industry, we still hang our hat on that old-time, genuine feel of a little neighborhood fruit stand that started it all.
 

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