Betting on Organics
MOM’s Green Idea Keeps on Growingby Sala Levin ’10 | photograph by John T. Consoli
Scott Nash was born, if not a gambling man, then at least a wagering one. His biggest bet? In 1987, he opened a niche grocery delivery service out of his mother’s garage that eventually became the retail powerhouse MOM’s Organic Market.
“I played a lot of poker in high school and college,” says Nash. “I could win pretty easily because all you had to do is bluff on the big pots. I was always willing to. I think that’s the prime characteristic of an entrepreneur.”
Today, the former Terp runs a 17-store company with locations in four states and Washington, D.C., that brings in nearly $200 million in annual revenue. The core of MOM’s mission—and Nash’s personal one—is to protect and restore the environment.
Nash’s commitment to environmentalism began as a boy, when his parents (a University of Maryland business professor and a homemaker) taught Nash and his brother and sister the basics of environmentalism: don’t pollute, don’t litter. “They weren’t radical hippies or anything, but they had strong, good, old-school liberal values,” says Nash. During summers, Nash’s father took him to the Campus Farm to shovel manure—the original eco-friendly fertilizer—to use on the family lawn.
Nash’s nature-loving ways have advanced since then, both at work and at home with his wife Suzanne ’92 and their three kids. “We compost like crazy,” he says. “Everything’s electric in my house, like lawnmowers and cars. There’s always a fight over the thermostat.” In stores, a recycling center offers customers a place to recycle their batteries, denim, corks and more. Stores also provide car-charging stations, use sustainable building materials and recycle heat from refrigeration systems for hot water.
But MOM’s didn’t start as an uber-green mini-empire. After three less-than-stellar years at UMD, Nash quit school and went to work for Organic Farms, a wholesaler in Beltsville, then the Smile Herb Shop in Berwyn Heights, where he manned its mail-order produce business.
Eventually, he and a co-worker started their own home-delivery grocery business. “But when you go into business with somebody, you might as well be getting married to them,” says Nash. The relationship soon soured, so Nash bought out his partner for $1,400 and grew the startup into the brick-and-mortar MOM’s.
MOM’s is now much more than just organic produce—the stores sell green cleaning products, organic clothing and shade-grown, organic coffee beans in addition to a wide range of groceries. Nash hopes to one day see MOM’s stores from coast to coast.
“We feel like the bigger we are, the better it is for the planet. People think big is bad. I think bad is bad and good is good. If you’re good, I hope you’re as big as possible, because you have more influence.”
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