Detwiler’s Farm Markets growing again
The Detwiler family’s ambition to spread their “eat fresh for less” brand one day likely will take it beyond the Bradenton-Sarasota market.
On Monday, the family announced plans for the fifth Detwiler’s Farm Market, this one in a former Winn-Dixie at 2881 Clark Road in Sarasota.
It’s far removed from the days when the family lived in a mobile home in Myakka City.
Family patriarch Henry Detwiler Sr. has a photo of himself nailing a board on the mobile home more than 20 years ago, while his son Henry Jr., then about 2 years old, tried to help him hammer.
That photo says volumes about how the nine Detwiler children have helped Henry Sr. and their mother, Natalie, grow the business.
“I am shocked at where we are at. I couldn’t have written this story. I had to do it with my children,” Henry Sr. said.
Henry Sr. and Natalie moved from Pennsylvania to Myakka City with their children. Henry, who was always torn between wanting to be a farmer and a merchandiser, found work in the Bradenton-Sarasota area in construction.
In 2002, the family opened a road-side produce stand, called Fruitville Groves Market, under a 10-by-20-foot tent at Sutton Egg Farm in Sarasota. In 2009, the family moved the business into their first brick-and-mortar store at 6000 Palmer Blvd. in Sarasota.
Although Detwiler’s Farm Market was in a small, crowded space, it quickly gained a near cult following.
A second store followed in Venice, and then a third in 2015 in a former Sweet Bay supermarket on University Parkway at Lockwood Ridge Road. The Detwilers opened their fourth store in 2018 in Palmetto, also in a former Winn-Dixie, which will remain — at least for the foreseeable future — their largest store.
Sam Detwiler, the oldest of the Detwiler sons, serves as president of the company.
“We can’t wait to get in and get started,” Sam said, adding that the company is still working through the permitting process for the Clark Road location.
Opening the new store will probably take several months of preparation, Henry Sr. said.
Although the Detwilers want to add new stores further north and south, possibly in Apollo Beach and in St. Petersburg, the family doesn’t want to get over-extended or grow beyond its family culture, Sam said.
The importance of their faith in their success cannot be overstated.
“To glorify the Lord in all that we do and to give customers the best farm market experience in the world,” is the company motto.
In the last two years, the Detwiler company has grown from 275 workers to about 400.
As the Detwiler clan made the new store announcement Monday, several of Henry Sr. and Natalie’s 16 grandchildren, looking to be about kindergarten age, played on the floor.
Josh Detwiler and his wife Emily brought their 2-week-old son, Josh Jr., the youngest Detwiler grandchild, to Monday’s announcement.
“There is never a dull moment,” Josh Detwiler said of the family-owned and managed company.
The Detwilers caused a bit of a buzz in October 2018 when they purchased C&D Fruit & Vegetable Company, 16505 State Road 64 E., for $2,225,000. But that project is on hold for now as the family grows in other directions, Sam said.
“We don’t have enough kids to put out there,” he said.
Sam Detwiler said he used to wonder why his parents had so many children, and now he understands that all those hands are needed to help keep the business running.
The new Clark Road store will have about 100 full-time employees, and the goal is to pay them well enough so that they can support their family with one job, Henry Sr. said.
This past weekend, the Detwilers held their annual company picnic and about 1,200 attended, Henry Jr. said.
“Even if we eventually grow to 2,000 or 3,000 employees, we want to keep that family feeling,” Sam said. “The main thing is that we’re family and our customers are like family to us.”
For more information about Detwiler’s Farm Market, visit detwilermarket.com/.