Henry Detwiler, Sr. enters the room in a navy gingham button-down, sitting down to the conference table where tins of freshly baked breads and cookies act as a centerpiece. He fiddles with his cellphone, tapping via trial and error to switch off the flashlight feature—he is a dad like any other. “So how did you hear about us?” he asks, perhaps still not recognizing the breadth of his success in turning Detwiler’s Farm Market into a Sarasota household name. 

Detwiler’s, the farm market known for selling fresh for less, began its journey under a 12x20-foot roadside tent, partnering with Sutter’s Dairy and Egg Farm and small-scale farmers to supply quality produce from the community, for the community. Then in 2009, Henry and his familial entourage opened their first store on Palmer Boulevard, eventually building to the four (soon to be five) locations open today. Forging relationships with 150–200-acre farms without the capacity to supply to large corporations, Detwiler’s receives the most tender, fresh and flavorful products at low cost for their customers while offering its business to the small-scale farmers who depend on it, never losing sight of the relationships that matter. “We’re just a family company,” says Sam Detwiler, president of Detwiler’s Farm Market and the eldest son of the clan. “And what goes against good service is when you scale too fast, because everyone’s a number instead of a name.” 

Humble beginnings, photo courtesy from the Detwilers' archives

With fresh produce delivered daily, a butcher shop, seafood stop, deli, bakery and Detwilers themselves behind counters and strolling the aisles, Detwiler’s Farm Markets provide grocery chain variety with a humanized shopping experience: handwritten signs detail the day’s selections and prices, staff pose in weekly flyers and social media platforms advertise the revolving in-stock specialties, available for tonight’s dinner. In an effort to invite every farmer, staff member and customer into the family business, separating the small chain from booming competitors, Detwiler’s investment lies in growing relationships, nourished from seed to store, at every step of development. 

“We want to make sure that as we grow, we keep our culture,” says Sam.  

Growing up on the mission fields alongside his father, an ordained pastor since age 26, Sam learned the value of serving others when repairing south Florida hurricane and Georgia flood damage as early as four years old. Raised and homeschooled in humble beginnings with his eight siblings, learning through failure and experience at his father’s side, Sam conducts business the Detwiler-way: grounded in Christian values, where God comes first, others second and themselves third. And while the occasional complaint arises, critiquing the prominence of the family’s religion in their business, the Detwiler family presents a united front with a simple response: “It’s not something we put on, it’s who we are,” says Sam. “We can’t cage that part of us up.” Whether seated at their dinner or conference table, familial harmony and success is about finding the right balance. 

“When you’re family, you have a different interest,” says Henry, looking to his son seated at the head of the table. “You have that ability to speak very honestly and forthrightly.” And through that open dialogue between parents, children and siblings, the Detwiler family continues to grow and supply the community with their genuine selves, operating the family business as if it were still a small-scale operation, despite building four stores in their first 10 years. With no current plans to expand outside of Florida anytime soon, Detwiler’s Farm Market strives to maintain and perfect the neighborhood culture that bears the family name. Opening soon, the new Clark Road location will offer the same neighborhood market to the expanding community, bringing the Detwiler family to yours. 

“We’re not looking at a small picture,” says Sam. “As long as we can be a company that people want to work for and that people want to shop, there’s no reason to stop.” 

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.