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People On The Move - Bill McDonald
05/03/2012 - By Paul Williams
Keeping it fresh after a century!
When John Barclay planted some apple trees in an orchard along a small farm road in the spring of 1911, little did he know that he and his family were sowing the seeds of one of the most successful businesses in the history of Monmouth County. Fast forward to 2012 and Delicious Orchards, now with a staff of 300, serves high-quality baked goods, produce, meats, beverages and more to 2.5 million customers every year. The current owner of Delicious Orchards, Bill McDonald, a Monmouth County native, knows that the business was built by a hardworking family committed to offering superior products to its community, and he operates under this same philosophy 101 years later. "I think it's a great thing to keep this as a family business. We have some third-generation employees here. To me, that's very neat. I love the community feel here with our employees and our customers. It's fun to genuinely know the families and stories of the people you serve," McDonald says. In our current age of chain supermarkets, McDonald still values channeling his efforts toward keeping Delicious Orchards operating at an optimum level, rather than investing in expansion. "People ask me all the time if I want to open another store, but that's never been my desire. If you get too big, you lose the relationships with your customers. Instead, we're always focusing on how we can fine-tune things," he says. As someone who has worked at Delicious Orchards for more than 37 years, McDonald has witnessed and implemented many changes in the business. "I started working here in the produce department the year I graduated high school," he says. McDonald jokes that he's still a stock boy, noting that, "Every morning, I still stock produce to make sure our section looks pristine. I still get a kick out of that."
After working his way up the managerial ladder, McDonald bought the business with the help of partners Frank McMahon and Tom Gesualdo in the '80s and became sole proprietor when they both retired in 2000. He still credits the Barclay family with helping him learn how to cultivate the Orchards STATS FAVORITE RESTAURANT Via 45 FAVORITE MUSIC FAVORITE MOVIE "The Godfather" PET PEEVE People who don't finish what they start THREE PEOPLE YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH John Roebling Abraham Lincoln Franklin Roosevelt into the success that it is now. "They really taught me how to manage people and the business very well. I still talk to Skip Barclay all the time. My grandchildren call him 'Grandpa Skip.'"
Keeping the Barclays in the loop should come as no surprise, given McDonald's determination to keep the Delicious Orchards family as tightly knit as it was a century ago. His wife of 35 years, Linda, who grew up across the street from the farm and met McDonald in the '70s while working at the cider bar, along with all four of their children, work in different areas of the business.
"My children all worked here when they were teenagers, but I encouraged them to take something other than business classes in college," McDonald says. They all took their father's advice, but gravitated back to Delicious Orchards after completing their degrees in other fields. Their son, Michael, a Criminal Justice major, played an integral role in bringing back the famous beehive that was a popular attraction, but was discontinued many years ago. "Once we started our Facebook page, we would get messages from some older customers who would ask us if we still had the beehive. At the time, my children didn't even know that we used to have one. We had stopped carrying it because we had some safety issues. But Michael took beekeeping classes, and now he's our resident beekeeper. They're his babies," McDonald says. "We felt like adding it back in would be a nice addition to the tours that we give here. What better way to end a tour than by showing off the bees? It all starts there, with them pollinating everything. We brought it back in 2009."
In recent years, McDonald has also added cheese and fish markets to Delicious Orchards. While he says he is always looking into various ways to increase inventory, he's careful not to offer too many products, especially if they will start to break away from the Orchards' roots. "We have always been about serving the community first. Yes, we have to make money, but that's not the only thing that we take into account. We feel that it's our job to lead people to good food, and not to carry something just so we can sell it," he says. "I just love serving the local neighborhood and would never want to change that environment."
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