Snow & Thomson Is 100; Potted Geranium Is 30; Friends Is 20

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Business


At a time when only half of all new businesses survive beyond the five-year anniversary, three local businesses are marking significant milestones.

Snow & Thomson Insurance at 514 Main St., Harwich Port, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

“We’re one of the few on Cape Cod that has made it,” says owner and president Alexander Thomson. “It’s kind of fun.”

Ralph H. Snow founded the business in 1918; his son, Ralph B. Snow, succeeded him. Once a sideline of the old Bank of Harwich, the insurance business separated from the bank in the 1930s or 1940s, and was then run from the front room of what is now the Augustus Snow House by Jane Snow, Ralph B.’s wife.

Thomson’s parents moved to Harwich in 1959. His father, Philip “Van” Thomson, sold real estate and insurance until he merged his insurance business with Snow’s in 1960 or 1961, Thomson recalls. Hence Snow & Thomson.

Alexander Thomson entered the business straight out of business school in the early 1980s. His first job was to computerize the agency. He worked elsewhere for a few years but in the late 1980s, when Ralph Snow died, Thomson bought his share of the business and partnered with his father until his father’s death in 2003.

The five-employee company offers a wide range of insurance products but focuses on seasonal homeowners.

While the company doesn’t plan a century party, it is “getting a lot of smiles for it,” Thomson says. “Harwich is a good place to do business.”

Friends’ Marketplace at 57 Main St. in Orleans, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, is another father/son enterprise.

Back in 1998, Jim Junkins bought Ellis Market and transformed it into Friends’ Marketplace. In 2016, when he retired, his son Brian and Brian’s wife Monila Junkins bought the business.

Brian Junkins grew up working in grocery stores. Yet “I never thought I wanted to own grocery stores,” he says. After working in banking, earning an M.B.A., consulting in Europe for a decade and establishing an Indian food company, Jaali Bean, in Chicago in 2012, he changed his mind.

Running Jaali Bean, he “saw food in a new way,” he says. So when his father retired, Junkins decided “this seems like a really cool chance to take over a second-generation business.”

He rebranded and remodeled the store; he ended cigarette sales and the use of plastic bags. He added lots of specialty items. And he hired chefs to prepare fresh food that is sold in the salad, soup and hot bars that he installed.

“We’re trying to go from every day to artisanal,” he says. Yet “you can do your whole shopping here.”

Jim Junkins, meanwhile, although retired, has built up the garden center at the side of the building.

“People still value and appreciate local businesses,” Brian Junkins says. “Our number one priority is to be a full-fledged contributor to the community.”

To mark its 20th anniversary Friends’ Marketplace will host an outdoor celebration with local food vendors, live music and an outdoor grill on Friday, June 29 and Saturday, June 30.

The Potted Geranium is 30 years old this year. Owner Stephanie Luty opened the shop at 188 Main St. in West Harwich in 1988. In 1992 and 1994 she expanded the store, which is located in seven rooms of a house. Outdoors, she maintained the building’s distinctive look, which is painted a geranium red with red shutters. The “Cape Cod gift shop” sells pottery, woven throws, hand-painted mailboxes, gifts, crafts, folk art, home accessories and more.

Since 1988 many things have changed about Cape Cod, including how “there are so many more opportunities for anyone on vacation,” Luty says. But “what has not changed is how every Cape community welcomes and supports local businesses. It was inspiring in 1988 and still is in 2018.

“The original tenet of retailing remains true — you still build your business one customer at a time.”