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A Legacy of Caring

Since the late 1800’s, Orleans’ Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

On Cape Cod mornings in weather fair or foul, you might see 79-year-old Stan Snow rowing his boat on Orleans’ Town Cove. Just like his great grandfather, Aaron Snow, who often sailed up and down the East Coast in search of the best products for the family’s famous store, Stan knows the importance of sticking to things.

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

For 125 years, the Snow family has provided Cape Codders with goods and services, from the 1880s when Aaron sold coal, grain, lumber, and other necessities from a wharf on Town Cove until today, when the current generation of Snows manages a sprawling Orleans company. In 2012, Snow’s Home and Garden includes a 40,000-square-foot general merchandise store, a thriving online store on Amazon.com, and a growing business supplying oil and gas for energy needs to customers from Dennis to Truro.

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

The Snow family’s entrepreneurial roots reach deep into Cape Cod’s past, all the way to the Mayflower, when 16-year-old Constance Hopkins married Nicholas Snow and settled in Eastham in 1644 before putting down roots in the Orleans area. Ever since, the family has helped shape the future of Orleans.

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

Since the days when Aaron Snow and his wife, Mary Tutty Snow, built an elaborate French-style mansion on Town Cove, the Snows have worked as bankers, historians, developers, landlords, chamber of commerce directors—and fuel haulers, hardware suppliers, paint experts, interior decorating specialists, and online entrepreneurs.

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

In 2012, an interview at the Snow compound on Orleans Main Street includes several Snows descended from Aaron. In the conference room are Stan, his son James, and Sid and Susan Snow, children of Stan’s brother, Bill. Sid, 58, is the current president and CEO. James, 52, is a vice president and buyer and Susan, 55, is also a vice president and store manager. All are members of a family board of directors that oversee the company.

Although he certainly could rest on his laurels after giving his life to his family, his business, and his town for more than 60 years, Stan still comes into the store several days a week to help out.

Bonnie, Stan’s wife of 52 years and a well-known Orleans historian, is the dedicated keeper of old family albums, boxes of newspaper stories, and store correspondence through the decades. On the wall of the conference room are large fading portraits of Aaron and Mary. Bonnie shares stories about Aaron, noting that he eventually became so successful that he developed an enormous building to house a series of businesses at a Main Street location known as the “Snow Block.”

“Aaron built this huge structure in 1884—it was one of the largest buildings on the Cape at the time,” says Bonnie, pointing out the Snow Block in old photo albums. “The building had apartments, a gymnasium where they had town basketball games, roller skating events, and dances—there was even a shooting range in the attic. They sometimes held town meetings there.”

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

One photo of the Snow Block, advertised in a surviving flyer as a place to find “entertainment of all kinds,” shows William Snow, Aaron’s son, sitting in a horse and buggy in front of his father’s monument to turn-of-the-century, can-do spirit.

Bonnie digs through boxes of memorabilia to share photos of William, who suffered through hardships (he and his wife, Annie, lost two children before Harry survived to be their only child) and expanded the store from the downstairs rooms of his own family’s Main Street home to become the biggest store in town.

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

That famous entrepreneurial Snow spirit seems to have continued on in Harry, who lived through a large part of the 20th century and became known in his hometown as “Mr. Orleans.” As the cherished only son of William and Annie, Harry had a quintessential Cape Cod childhood in Orleans, enjoying sailing expeditions and clambakes—and working at the family’s general store that, by the 1940s, sold thousands of items from housewares to radios.

After serving in World War I, Harry returned home, full of ideas for the expansion of the business. With all-American good looks that are captured in dozens of photos, Harry was so committed to the success of the family business that he handled company affairs while slogging through training camp down south.

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

Until the 1950s when his sons William, Robert, and Stan took over the business, Harry stayed one step ahead of the country’s evolving tastes. His influence continued to grow in the town, where he soon became the man to know to get anything done in Orleans.

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

“Harry did so much for this town,” says Bonnie, who helped care for her father-in-law until he died in 1977, just months before his 90th birthday. “If somebody didn’t have fuel oil, they got fuel oil. If they didn’t have coal, they got coal. When Harry retired in the 1970’s, they gave him a huge party and more than 500 people came. A lot of those people had survived through tough times because Harry Snow helped them.”

In a 1983 newspaper article, Harry’s son, William, talked about his father’s “accommodating” personality. “My father always believed in accommodating the public and that’s what he wanted people to remember us by,” says William, who proceeded his son, Sid, as Snow’s CEO with responsibility for the company’s management and finances.

“My dad was the guy who succeeded in getting the store computerized in the 1970’s,” says Sid, also noting that his father kept Snow’s finances on an even keel for decades.

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

A steady hand on the financial tiller has remained important at Snow’s, says Sid, who remembers that his grandfather was so trusted by the townspeople of Orleans that he actually became the town’s bank. “Harry was the bank in Orleans,” says Sid. “In the early days when the town didn’t have a bank, everybody brought their money to Snow’s and Harry would get on the train with a gun and ride to a Harwich bank to deposit the money there.”

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

Bonnie recalls that Sid and her son James, adored their grandfather. “James would follow Harry everywhere,” says Bonnie, remembering that the cousins got their start at Snow’s Home and Garden learning to bag birdseed with their grandpa as young teens in the 1970’s.

“James is the face of Snow’s out on the floor,” says Sid. “He carries on the tradition of accommodating our customers.” Sid says that his cousin’s passion for gardening led to the establishment of Snow’s 3,000-square-foot greenhouse and nursery area.

Like her brother, Susan Snow has had numerous jobs at the store. “Susan’s talent is in human resources—she has focused on managing our terrific staff,” says Sid, noting that Snow’s dedicated employees, many of whom have been with Snow’s for decades, continue Harry’s tradition of truly accommodating the public.

It was Stan who, along with his brothers Bill and Bob, brought Snow’s into the 21st century. The three spearheaded the store’s revitalization with a state-of-the-art new building in 1971.

“Bob ran the appliance section when we used to sell major appliances, and then he concentrated on our fuel business. Stan is still a big help in our collectible and hobby departments,” says Sid. 

Stan is an unpretentious man who resembles his father Harry. He doesn’t speak often, listening as Susan, James, and Sid talk about celebrating the 125th anniversary of Snow’s Home and Garden this summer and discussing their strategy for keeping Snow’s vital in the Cape community. But you can tell that like his father and grandfather, he cares deeply about the community he has lived in all his life.

Stan worked for years as part of a crew of volunteers to rebuild Orleans’ landmark 1700s windmill on Town Cove. “He worked on that windmill all winter, in the freezing cold,” says his wife, Bonnie, recalling that Stan’s dedication to the project was a selfless gift to the town. “He did it on his own time, with his own money. Just like all the Snows since Aaron, he always had a lot of love and care for the people of Orleans.”

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

Today, Sid, James, and Susan hope to grow Snow’s Home and Garden far beyond Orleans. Last spring, they opened up a satellite store in Harwich. “We are always looking for ways to grow,” says Sid Snow, who worked at Jordan Marsh for five years before returning to Cape Cod and his family’s legacy.

Sid, James, and Susan evaluated the marketplace and also committed to an ambitious online presence, both through a storefront on Amazon.com and their own website. “We knew we could expand with more stores or move ahead on the Internet, and we just went ahead in both directions,” says Sid, who lives in a family “compound” on Town Cove bought by Harry Snow for $3,600. “We all have a passion for this business and we want the company to continue for our children. People ask us how we have survived through so many generations and we say, ‘Family is family and business is business—we just don’t mix the two together.’”

And then, even though it is a quiet off-season day, all four Snows head off to continue the family’s 125-year legacy of accommodating their customers.

Since the late 1800's, Orleans' Snow family has helped raise the quality of life for Cape Codders near and far.

For information on Snow’s Home and Garden, 125th anniversary celebration, go to snowshomeandgarden.com .



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