The busy season for the Cape & Islands has just ended, but that doesn’t mean that local businesses get to take a break. The challenges a local business face, especially in a seasonal location, last year-round. As WeNeedaVacation.com celebrates our 20th year in business, we would like to continue to celebrate other local businesses meeting these challenges and passing significant milestones.
Our third blog post recognizing these businesses is dedicated to Snow's Home and Garden of Orleans, celebrating their 130th anniversary. If you haven’t already been to this diverse store, you should definitely stop in—it is truly worth the visit. Not only does Snow’s have a long history of supplying exactly what the community needs, as far as hardware, paint, gardening supplies and furniture and home goods go, it offers on-trend merchandise and fashion as well as entertaining departments for people of all ages (like their prolific electric train display!) We sat down with one of the current, and 5th generation owners, Sid Snow, and asked him how business has changed (and not changed) over the past 130 years.
One thing that Snow’s has successfully done through the years is meeting the needs of its local customers. The idea of accommodating the needs of the local community goes back to the founding father of Snow's, Capt. Aaron Snow, who started the business out of his home on the Orleans Town Cove in what is now The Orleans Inn. He would dock his schooner, the Nettie M. Rogers, and take orders from locals and then set off to find the items they wanted and bring them back.
The original main street store location during the early 1900’s.
William H. Snow (son of Captain Aaron Snow) who built the first building on Main Street.
Snow’s during the early days on Main Street. (c. 1920s)
Getting what the locals need is what Snow’s still does to this day. In a constant effort to keep up with the times, Snow’s has sold almost everything over the years, from hi-fi stereos, to major appliances, to tvs and even computers. As the town evolved, Snow’s did right along with it. When “big box” stores like Staples came along, Sid and his family modified their office supply department. And where they might’ve dropped items here and there, they picked up items that are current and fashionable. At the moment, they’re finding success in specialty homewares and women’s fashions, sending buyers to New York City to pick out the latest in contemporary merchandise.
An early Snow’s delivery truck.
The original Main Street store location, after additions, when it was run by William Howard Snow and his son, Harry H. Snow. (c. 1940-50)
130 years is a long tenure and there were many stories that Sid shared with us. One of our favorites was passed down from his grandfather, Harry Snow, about a robbery gone wrong (though it turned out alright in the end!) Back in the 60s, the police would walk around downtown Orleans on foot at night and check the doors of all the local businesses. One night they found that the front door to Snow’s was unlocked. Finding this unusual, the police called Harry to inform him and they escorted him back to the store to make sure everything was as it should be. Upon arriving at the store, Harry went back to the office and found some white powder on the ground with footprints in it. (At the time, fire retardant powder was in the door of safes.) Apparently, someone had broken in through a window in the office, grabbed some tools from the store itself, and smashed the door to the safe to try to get it to open. Harry and the police had just interrupted the operation. When Harry came upon the white powder and footprints, he shouted to the police that the safe had been broken into and the person who had done so was still in the building. The police called the fire department, firetrucks came with searchlights and they illuminated the building from the outside. One of the policeman followed the footprints up to a closet in the attic, and he fired one shot at the closet. It was met with, “Don’t shoot!” and the perpetrator was apprehended. Little did the thief know that he could’ve just walked in the front door. It’s a good thing the door was unlocked. Otherwise, the police never would’ve been suspicious and notified Harry, resulting in a thorough check of the premises and the interruption of the robbery!
William, Stanley, Harry and Robert Snow.
Harry H. Snow reading off a raffle winner celebrating the opening of the first basement store on Cape Cod. (c. 1940)
Each member of the Snow family has their own, unique place in Snow’s history with defining moments that contribute to the successful picture that is Snow’s Home & Garden. Aaron, the founding father, was the entrepreneur, starting the business out of his home. His son William and his wife Annie Walker Snow, were an early stabilizing force for the business, finding a new home for the store—its current location on Main Street. Their son Harry was the heart, mindful of his customers and setting the course for being deeply involved in the community. Not only was he a member of many town boards, he was the unofficial first bank of Orleans! 4th generation, Bill, was a forward thinker, stocking computers and even programming the computer system the store used in the early 70s. His brothers Bob and Stan also came into the business, Bob having run the fuel division and sold major appliances, and Stan as buyer and store manager. The present owners, Sid, James and Susan, are the visionaries—expanding and keeping diversification on point, always trying to be one step ahead. The family tradition continues with the 6th generation making their own appearances: Victoria in human resources and her husband Michael as store sales manager.
Snow’s famous electric train display.
Current 5th generation, owners Jamie, Susan and Sid Snow.
We think it’s safe to say that 130 years in business earns the title “institution." And for this institution, “Snow’s” is not just a last name, it’s a way of life centered around community, accommodation and superb business acumen. Through community involvement, diversification and forward thinking, the store has enjoyed success. We wish Snow’s another 130 years of success!