When Rising Tide Natural Market in Glen Cove, New York, celebrated 40 years in business, founder and owner Jerry Farrell decided to thank his community for its patronage and support, and for growing his business into one of the most successful natural food stores on Long Island. The birthday bash was complete with a barbecue, live music, store discounts, and free goodies. “I’ve made so many friendships over 40 years and I learn so much from our customers,” Farrell told the Record-Pilot newspaper. “I really feel like this is a community store. It really serves as a meeting place and network for a lot of natural lifestyles.”
So Rising Tide focused its celebration on those Jerry wanted to acknowledge as the reason he got into this business in the first place, and why the store had become a fixture in the community. In his speech, Jerry spoke of a “special” customer, one who has been a fixture at the store and a tireless networker and referral—a walking advertising campaign for the store—for all the 40 years the store has been in business. In turn, Jerry presented a basket of merchandise to his patron-turned-friend, joking that he had even had the pleasure of hiring both of the man’s sons as part-time employees. On top of that, Jerry publicly acknowledged Whole Foods, thanking the super store despite the fact that it slowed down his business for a short time. “We struggled a little bit for a few years,” said Farrell. “But we held on, and all of a sudden, business started picking up again.” He said he appreciated Whole Foods for successfully promoting the importance of natural foods, which Jerry said has become “the standard.”
This attitude of gratitude toward his customers, staff, and his competitors has come to serve Jerry and Rising Tide in ways that surpass profit. His mission for delivering healthy natural foods to people on the North Shore of Long Island has led to a loyal constituency, an expanded retail location, and a true community feeling that makes people want to see Rising Tide in business for the next 40 years. But most of all people feel good going there, because they know they are more than a number on the cash register. They are aware their patronage brings purpose to Jerry’s life because he has told them so, and that kind of gratefulness cannot be faked.
My friend Ivan Misner, CEO and Chief Visionary Officer at BNI, described for me what he calls one of the best examples of gratitude he has seen in the last few years. He witnessed how gratitude becomes a great connector. Ivan had an opportunity to spend some time on Richard Branson’s island. As Mr. Branson toured Ivan and the group around, he stopped and excused himself in order to greet a man near a construction site. The man was with a group of sweaty workers, all holding sledgehammers, who were in the process of knocking down a single-family house. “I wanted to thank you for the work you are doing, because I can’t get my work done if you don’t do your work first,” Ivan overheard Branson saying. Branson continued to engage the workers by communicating what his vision was for the area after they were done with the demolition and how the men’s hard work played a part in that vision, making their job important beyond maybe what they even knew. “It was extremely powerful,” Ivan said. “I understand now why people who work for Branson love him. He really knows how to connect with people and make them feel connected.”