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Small Business Administration names Brodis Blueberries as Maine and New England’s Family Owned Business of the Year

Sat, 06/03/2023 - 9:15pm

A business staying in the same family for three generations is a remarkable achievement, but for a family to continually operate a business for nine generations and 265 years, such Brodis Blueberries in Hope, is nearly unheard of, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“This exceptional history and the traditions associated with it are integral to the success of the business,” said the SBA, in a news release announcing its annual award to Brodis Blueberries.

Gwen Brodis and her husband, Dick, purchased the farm from her parents in 1967 and Gwen has managed the 790 acres with 170 in wild blueberries since then, working the land and producing one of the iconic Maine crops, along with 15 members of the Brodis family across four generations.

Over the course of their ownership, Gwen and Dick put in place numerous improvements and innovations to increase sales and ensure the success of the business.

With yields increased by land improvements, and sales increased with direct to consumer marketing, Brodis Blueberries built up over the years under their management.

After Dick’s passing in 2016, Gwen’s son-in-law, Ron Howard, stepped up to both manage the fields and take on marketing for the business. As part of his marketing push, he began participating in numerous industry organizations that market wild blueberries collectively, such as Wild Blueberry Weekend, which promotes visits to farms in a model similar to Maine Maple Sunday. New wholesale customers were added, including bakeries, specialty vinegar producers, and winemakers.

The family has also made numerous efforts to diversify the product range of the farm and protect the legacy of a business older than the State of Maine.

Gwen has used the business advising services of the Small Business Development Centers, while the family began looking into new products that could add value to the blueberry crop.

Grandson Jeremy started Blue Barren Distillery to produce blueberry spirits on site at the farm, and increase the incentive for customers to visit.

A farm store was added, allowing the family to sell frozen wild blueberries, jams, sauces and pies to visitors year-round, not just during harvest season. Other efforts increased the energy efficiency and energy independence of the farm, with a heat pump installed in the processing facility, and a solar panel installation planned for 2023.

By building on the foundation of previous generations, while not being constrained by tradition, the Brodis family has shown the best of Maine’s family owned businesses. Thanks to the multiple generations working together and bringing new opportunities to their small farm the future of Brodis Blueberries is secure, possibly for another 265 years.

“Because of the incredible history of the business, and the significant efforts to ensure the continued success of the business, the SBA is pleased to name Brodis Blueberries as the 2023 Jeffrey Butland Family Owned Business for both Maine and New England,” the SBA said.