Outsider on the Inside

Dean Peterson, Photo by Adam Finkle

Dean Peterson has “only” been working at Harmons for 40 years. 

“I grew up with Bob and Randy,” he says. “I started as a night stocker.” Now Peterson is president and chief executive officer—pretty impressive for a non-family member in a family-owned company.

His relationship to the Harmon family is unconventional but it works. As Peterson explains it, “Bob and Randy report to me but they own the company so I report to them. They’re VPs. They’re on the board. There’s no separation between the board and the family.” The Harmon family and their adopted chief executive work hand in hand: “I go on dates with Doreen looking at store locations,” jokes Peterson.

If the family falls apart, so does the company. So estate planning is part of the business planning. 

“We’ve set it up so it will be here a long time. We’re thinking about the fourth and fifth generation now,” says Peterson. “We want to give the kids a choice and encourage them to find their passion.” At the same time, he doesn’t underestimate the power of the family name. “There’s a huge value to having Bob and Randy’s presence in the store. It’s a great thing that we can have the owners out there talking to the public. We don’t need a talking gecko. We have real people who really care about this store interacting with the public. Nothing works better than something genuine.” 

MILEPOST: Harmons Through the Years

1932: Jake and Irene Harmon open The Market Spot at 3300 S. Main Street, Salt Lake City. The store is open 24/7 and Jake and Irene live in the back of the store, where their son Terry is born.

1942: A semi-truck loses control and demolishes the back of the store, and Jake and Irene open a cafe. 

1945: Jake and Irene sell the cafe and build The Green Store in Granger.  

Photo provided by Harmons.

1958: Terry meets his wife Doreen working in the bakery—a tradition followed by his sons. They have three children—Randy, Bob and Jamie. 

1971: A fire destroys the original store in Granger, leading to the building of Harmonrs superstore. 

1975: Randy and Laurie marry; they met while working in the bakery. Bob and his wife, Laurie, “L.J.,” also met in the bakery. 

Photo provided by Harmons.

1976: Jake Harmon dies.

1977–84: Harmons opens four more stores.

2009: Harmons adopts Slow Food’s Teach to Taste program.

2012: City Creek store opens.

2013: Harmons boasts 13 stores with three new locations planned.

Back>>>Family Means Business

Back>>>Read other stories in our December 2013 issue.