and Maurice Adams Gardner’s Markets:
South Miami, Pinecrest, Brickell Key, Ocean Reef
in the Family
For almost a century, Gardner’s has been associated
with quality and service. Today, the third Gardner generation
continues to nurture and anticipate the needs of their
Gardner’s Market opened its first store in 1912, the
fledgling city of Miami contained just over 5,500 residents.
Tourism was catching on, thanks to Flagler’s railroad.
The city’s first skyscraper, the new five-story Burdine’s
department store, opened. Twelfth Street, now Flagler
Street, was the address for the city’s leading businesses.
years and three generations of Gardners later through
two world wars, financial crashes, depressions, and
hurricanes Gardner’s Market has grown into four successful
stores, feeding a city flush with beautiful skyscrapers,
with over two million residents.
So, what’s the secret behind a family business remaining
a successful family business for nearly a century?
The first store, in downtown Miami, was started by three
Gardner brothers, R.C., Levy and Harvey. “It was the
supermarket,” says Elizabeth Adams, current COO of Gardner’s
and granddaughter of Harvey. “They developed that store
into quite a landmark.” The innovative Gardner brothers
began a service called “Tip Top Store to Your Door,”
where groceries were trucked around to neighborhoods,
and women could conveniently purchase their groceries
just a few yards from their own doorstep.
time passed, a second store and warehouse emerged on
36th Street, near what is now Miami International Airport.
Around that time, the brothers had a falling out, and
the business was divided up. Harvey Gardner Elizabeth’s
grandfather took over the 36th Street store which
he ran with his two sons, and in the 1950’s purchased
the store which still stands on Red Road, in South Miami.
They later built a facility on Miller and 92nd Street,
which is the actual commissary for Gardner’s Markets’
four stores, in South Miami, Pinecrest, Ocean Reef,
and Brickell Key.
When Elizabeth and her husband Maurice Adams took over
the operation, fine meats had already been established
as the markets signature item, and the basic necessities
of life lined the shelves. But there were no gourmet
foods, no imported cheeses, no exotic produce, no deli
department, no wines from the around the world. All
that was about to change.
grocery to fine food market
Elizabeth and her husband Maurice were living in Hawaii,
Maurice working in the oil industry, Elizabeth as a
CPA, when they realized that their jobs kept them apart
most of the day. “We wanted to do something we could
share and be passionate about together,” says Maurice
a West Point College graduate and a Stanford University
School of Business graduate who was in the Armed Forces
for six years.
common passion was good food and wine, and the family
business beckoned. However, being a woman, Elizabeth,
the eldest Gardner child, could not be a serious contender
to run the business. Her father and uncle looked more
to Maurice as the “man” to run the stores. “I sort of
had to come along because I was the Gardner,” Elizabeth
blue-eyed, and soft-spoken, Elizabeth is the powerhouse
who generates ideas and gets a staff of close to 150
people to implement them. With a degree in economics
and a love of food and cooking, she has been instrumental
in the growth and continued success of Gardner’s in
the past 20 years. “If it had been just me running the
business, we would have had more grocery store stuff.
It turns out that the core of our business is our kitchen,
our prepared foods and our deli, all innovations of
Elizabeth’s,” claims Maurice proudly. “My job is to
make sure she has everything she needs to get the job
trip to New York, shopping at Balducci’s marketplace,
inspired Elizabeth. “This is what people would love.
A little bit of turkey cooked by us. They don’t want
to cook an entire turkey!” She suddenly knew where she
was going. “Being at the front end of the 20 million
baby boomers is an advantage,” she explains. “ When
something occurs to us, we know that others are having
the same thoughts.”
key to longevity
For the Adams, the key to longevity is innovating, and
anticipating the needs of the newer generation. “It’s
our job to change, in order to survive. When we came
in, we saw that people wanted good, fresh, homemade
chicken salad not the stuff made with salad dressing.
They wanted a bottle of wine besides Gallo. As we became
more sophisticated about food and wine, so did our customers,”
explains Maurice, an expert in wines.
of his innovations was to create a dynamic wine store
with wines categorized according to how they drink,
not typically by country of origin: “The reds are grouped
together as robust, soft, mellow, smoky, or spicy; the
whites rich, crisp or sweet.”
With over 20,000 different products, Gardner’s not only
caters to the needs of the community, but also looks
ahead to their future desires. “It’s only been 10 years
since we started ‘home-meal replacement’ (prepared foods),”
explains Elizabeth. “It’s very difficult for large stores.
Only small operations like ours can do it successfully,
because the food is so perishable and delicate. And,
in order for it to be really good, it has to be extremely
fresh,” she continues.
Last Thanksgiving, Gardner’s sold two tons of prepared
food not counting 2,000 turkeys. Maurice compared
Gardner’s to the Bell & Evans turkeys they sell. “They
are all-natural turkeys, but not free-range then they’d
be more expensive than gold. They are raised with no
antibiotics, no growth hormones, and they have room
to move around. That’s a pretty good idea of where we
are food-wise,” he explains. Gardner’s mission statement
promotes, “Great food, with professional service in
a healthy environment, since 1912. The difference being
we don’t want to be a hoity-toity gourmet store, but
serve just really great food,” says Elizabeth.
According to Maurice, along with the meat department,
prepared foods are a big source of revenue for the stores.
“But every department is important,” says Maurice. who,
as a service to his customers, insists on stocking up
with essential groceries. “People are so time-conscious
that, although they don’t come to buy their paper towels
here, they don’t have time to buy them elsewhere.”
for the Community
As an integral part of the community, Gardner’s
concern for the survival of local farmers has led them
to hold a Farmer’s Market in their Pinecrest store parking
lot - from January through April - where local growers
show off their freshly-picked fruit and produce, and
families can enjoy cooking demonstrations, and entertainment
with clowns, face painting, music and games.
the years, the stores’ profits have steadily risen.
The South Miami store alone has seen sales grow four
times since the Adamses came on. “It’s not a huge money-making
business that’s not the nature of the business. That’s
not to say we’re not doing well,” claims Elizabeth.
“We give our employees a lot of benefits, and most of
our income goes back to our ‘business family.’ We just
put more value on our personal lives. We don’t have
80-hour work weeks, and neither do our employees. We
care about each other and each others’ lives.”
So, what does the future hold? The Adamses’ oldest son
recently decided to join the family business. With a
fourth generation Gardner on board, it appears that
Gardner’s Markets’ future is safe and secure.
Annette Wright is assistant editor and a contributing
writer of The South Florida Gourmet.