This past week I had the pleasure of participating in a trade show in Harrisburg, PA sponsored by a strong regional distributor who sells bulk snacks and candies.  What is different about this distributor is its client base.  The overwhelming majority of its customers are independent stores that are owned/operated by Amish and Mennonite families.

Having grown up in central Pennsylvania, I have had the opportunity to interact with a good number of Plain sect individuals over the years. In addition to their well-deserved reputation as hard-working, I’ve always found them to be kind, honest with good business smarts. The Plain customers crowding the aisles at the show in Harrisburg were along these same lines and they came to buy!  What’s more, they bought lots of our bulk seasoned pretzels and said lots of nice things about our products.  Whether it was talking about seasoned pretzel nuggets, seasoned broken pretzel pieces, pretzel recipes or their favorite seasoned pretzel (honey mustard!), they all were happy to talk about my favorite subject. Pretzels! What a great day!

The one thing that really made the show special to me though was that many of the Plain sect customers brought their entire families with them. The youngest attendee I met was 7 weeks old and the extended families that walked the aisles sometimes numbered five or six – mostly young kids. It was heart warming to see Fathers (and Mothers!) mentoring some of the older kids on buying products for their stores and giving them a hands-on experience. I am certain that many of these children will ultimately either take over the family business or start one of their own.

With Father’s Day looming, this experience led me to reflect a bit about my family’s involvement in my company.  My father was never involved with the business on a day-to-day basis but he certainly has been a pillar of support from day one when I left the corporate world to start on my own. There is no question that without his enduring support, this business would have never made it this far. Looking to the future, will I be one of those father’s passing the business on to one of my kids? Probably not as they are clearly striking out in their own directions which my wife and I have encouraged all along. But during this special time of the year, it is important to celebrate family businesses and the magic when Fathers (or Mothers!) create legacies with their businesses for their children.

(P.S. Some of you might wonder why I didn’t take a photo of some of the wonderful kids that visited our stand at the show in Harrisburg. The reason is that Amish and Mennonites are strongly against having any type of image made of them — i.e. they feel it is counter to their beliefs to have their picture taken. So, in recognition of this, we refrained from taking any photos during the show).