Longtime East Longmeadow business sold to its employees
EAST LONGMEADOW, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A well-known pet and garden store in East Longmeadow has been under the same ownership since 1985, but as of this past summer, it has new owners: the employees themselves.
A.W. Brown’s Hometown Pet and Garden Store has been a go-to business in East Longmeadow since 1970. Tom Wheeler took over in 1985 and brought the store from Maple Street to Shaker Road in the mid-1990s. Last year, Wheeler told Western Mass News it was time to retire.
“It all started several years ago when we started to think about the future of the company and what will be in the best interest of everybody, including the local community,” Tom Wheeler explained.
Wheeler had options on the table. He could sell the business or close up shop for good, but there was a third option for the near 70-year-old: let his own loyal employees take over. It was a difficult path he decided to take.
“I think it was the right decision at the right time. It puts everybody in kind of a unique position to continue to work hard and have a good work ethic,” Tom Wheeler said.
Even Wheeler’s daughter and current general manager, Annie Wheeler, said this was a good move.
“(It) really says a lot to as a testament to who he is and who our employees are, that our employees are also ready to take that on and capable of taking that on. We have an incredible group here,” said Annie Wheeler.
With the help of Teamshares, the transition process began last year with the deal closing in December.
Wheeler’s end of the transition was completed in June and now, new owners like Mike Burnham know they have big shoes to fill.
“When you think about not just taking over that legacy, but then also the responsibility that comes with being part of an employee-owned organization and making sure that we’re running it the right way, so that they can succeed as well, there’s a lot of responsibility,” Burnham noted.
With the ownership transition now complete, changes are on the horizon for A.W. Brown’s, such as painting the wall of the pet room, but according to Burnham, other changes have already been made.
“We actually just added music to the store, so if you’ve shopped here for the last 40 years, you may have noticed that we didn’t have background music,” Burnham explained.
The new owners pledge to continue keeping the store community-friendly and give the public their pet and garden needs in the long run.
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