Barry and Kathy Fisher Nourish the Community Through Their Market GROW.
Written by Nancy Sokoler Steiner | Photographed by Michael Neveux
Two weeks after opening GROW market in Manhattan Beach, Barry and Kathy
Fisher were slicing oranges which were eagerly devoured by participants
of the 2006 Manhattan Beach 10K Run. It was the first of countless events
the market has supported in the 15 years since.
Schools receive a healthy share of produce contributions from GROW. “We
never turn away school charity projects,” says Barry, who learned
the importance of supporting schools from his grandfather. The Fishers
donate to fun runs, silent auctions, garden programs and sports teams,
and Kathy hosts elementary school field trips to the store. (She reports
the children like the walk-in freezer best.) Other produce beneficiaries
include Sandpipers, Rotary, the Neptunian Women’s Club and local churches.
“We feel we need to give back to the community because the community
gives to us. It has to be a two-way street,” says Barry.
GROW sprouted from a cherry stand the Fisher’s then 5-year-old son,
Brandan, set up in front of the family’s house to earn money to
buy a boogie board. The cherries came courtesy of Barry, who runs a fruit
exporting business. Neighbors continued requesting cherries after the
Meanwhile, Barry was finding grocery chain produce lacking and noticing
rising public interest in the origins of produce. Through his exporting
business, he learned about neighborhood fruit shops in other countries.
Given his relationships with California growers and access to quality
produce, he and Kathy decided to use the Australian fruit shop model to
open GROW in 2006. Today the store offers meats, cheeses, wines and select
groceries. The Fishers opened a second shop in downtown Los Angeles in 2015.
The couple enjoys the relationships they have formed with customers over
the years. “We’ve gotten to know people we might not have
otherwise crossed paths with,” says Kathy. “When we see our
customers out and about, it’s almost like seeing family. We’ll
often talk about food or recipes.”
The Fishers have bonded with their staff as well. Referring to an employee
who started when the store first opened, Barry says, “We’ve
now seen her get married and have children. You see this family growing
in front of you and you know you’ve been a part of it by feeding
GROW had suffered financially with the opening of three new grocery stores
in the South Bay, and the Fishers had decided in early March to close
GROW by June if they did not see a positive turn in business. With COVID-19
Safer at Home orders later that month, the community rallied—using
social media to urge neighbors to support local businesses.
GROW instituted online shopping and delivery services a decade ago, which
also helped meet the need of the community. Additionally, GROW was the
first grocer in the South Bay to require customers to wear face masks
(before the state required it) and the first to institute the first hour
of shopping for seniors and people with immune complications. It was the
Fishers’ daughter, Megan, who rallied for these changes to keep
customers, team members and her family safe.
“We look forward to the time when we see smiles, shake hands and
give hugs,” says Barry. He and Kathy also await resuming participation
in the Manhattan Beach 10K, which went virtual in 2020. Several years
ago, they switched from serving oranges to offering Pristine (seedless
green) and Sweet Scarlet (seedless red) grapes. Barry reports participants
have told him, “I run the race for your grapes.’”