All in the Family is a series that highlights the classic American small business story — one started and run by families. From spouse duos to multi-generation leadership, Invoice2go celebrates the funny, frustrating, and fulfilling stories that come from working with family.
For Bob Romero, business runs in the family. He runs Three Brothers Farm, a farm to market distribution center, which has been passed down through the family since his grandfather bought it in 1944. Nowadays Bob and his son make sugar, but the farm has seen eras of sweet potatoes, cotton and fig trees, the last of which were destroyed by a hurricane that pelted the farm with salt water for days. Their recovery was not an easy one, and the decision to switch to sugar was tough, given the high start-up costs involved. Now, Three Brothers Farm is thriving, selling raw and unrefined sugar to restaurants and wholesalers, while staying true to their roots by taking bags to their local farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, where they always sell out. Their incredible success surprised Bob himself, as he says, “we just needed to pay our bills, but now we’re growing much beyond our expectations.”
Each day in the sugar business provides new challenges. To get the popular raw sugar that restaurants and consumers like to use in cooking and their morning coffees, the product has to be run through a sifting machine and be sorted into five gallon pails before being individually weighed into bottles. This manual process takes time, and with large operations, you can outsource or have a custom machine made, but as Bob says, “the world isn’t made for small businesses. The challenge as an owner is to find solutions to problems that are marketable and reachable right now.”
Bob is great at finding those solutions, and his customers take notice. One of his most gratifying moments came when a southern grocery chain contacted Three Brothers to provide sugar for their stores. When talking about what size bottle they wanted, and how it should be labeled, Bob assumed they would want the name of the store brand. Instead, the store asked to use the Three Brothers name. “It felt so good to know they wanted our product not simply to fill a space on their shelf, but because our name carries weight. We’re not just a generic bar of soap to them,” says Bob.
In the last half of the twentieth century, corporate farms became more of the norm and began to buy out little farms, leaving few family run properties. But Bob has survived a hurricane, kept the family land against all odds, and still plans to triple his business before passing it to his son. Says Bob, “we’re here, and we’re going to stay here for a long time.”
If you want to find out more about Bob and Chris, or even take home some of their sugar, check out Three Brothers Farm.