Private Label Buyer

Greatness From Small Beginnings

May 9, 2012
la mesa cali boney's fruit market history

The Boney family’s story began in the 1940s, with a couple and a fruit stand. Here’s a glimpse at how the company has grown over the years, courtesy of Sprouts.

“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.

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 the 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.

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.

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 Sprouts store opened in Chandler, Ariz., in 2002.

Under the leadership of Stan and Shon Boney, Sprouts grew rapidly. Henry Boney eventually passed away in 2005.

In 2007, Whole Foods Market Inc. bought Wild Oats and sold the Henry’s stores to Smart & Final Holdings Corp. Smart & Final eventually was bought by private-equity firm Apollo Management.

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—largely natural and organic. All of these elements have been hallmarks of the Boney family’s retail establishments since the beginning.

 Today, with more than 100 stores spread out over four states, more than 7,000 employees and well over $1 billion in annual sales, Sprouts has become one of the fastest growing retailers in the United States, and an important player in the natural foods industry.”