Early in the 20th Century there was an ambitious, dedicated gentleman named Harold H. Heritage, who we call Grandpop Skeets. Grandpop Skeets and his brother Sam each had about 50 acres of land located in Thorofare on both sides of Jessup Road, which they inherited from their father.
On this land they harvested a variety of vegetables and fruit. They supported their families from the sale of the various vegetables and fruit.
Grandpop Skeets also sold gravel to make extra money. The gravel came from behind where the main office is located now on Jessup Road. He sold the gravel to the State of NJ and Gloucester County Roads department. These two departments used the gravel for construction to build many of the roads we travel on today.
Many of us cannot remember back to the late 1920's and early part of 1930's, but it was a time when money and food were scarce. It is referred to as "The Great Depression". Grandpop Skeets was an ambitious man and he saw that in order to survive during these hard times he needed an innovative way to make money. Therefore, he began to diversify. He began saving his money, and in 1929, he decided the dairy business was his answer. Milk was an essential part of many people's diet and it was a repetitive sale.
In 1930, with only one cow, he began serving milk to his family, friends and neighbors in the Thorofare and Woodbury areas. The milk came from one cow with a broken leg. The cow broke its leg while being transported to be bred. She decided she didn't want to be bred so she jumped out of the back of the truck and broke her leg. This didn't stop or discourage Grandpop Skeets, he still continued to milk the cow.
Grandpop Skeets served milk out of Model A Ford. The quartage of milk delivered gradually increased to about 100 qts per day. With this increase in milk Grandpop Skeets also increased the number of cows. His stock grew to 120 heads of milking cows and heifers, which are young calves.
In 1936 he purchased a small milk route in Paulsboro, and began selling about 150 to 200 quarts per day. He leased farm area in Thorofare in order to produce feed for his cows instead of purchasing these items. He grew hay, corn and soybeans for his cows.
Grandpop Skeets and other members of his family hand milked the cows and bottled the raw milk with the help of one full time employee. In 1937 Grandpop Skeets started to pasteurize milk and later began homogenizing. When he pasteurized milk he heated it up to 145 degrees in order to kill all harmful bacteria that existed in the raw milk. Then he bottled the fresh milk and sold it to his customers.
Grandpop Skeets and his wife, Ruth, had four children: Skeets Jr., Elaine, Windy and Marian. They all graduated from Paulsboro High School. While Grandpop was busy running the business, Ruth was even busier raising four kids, running the house and keeping the company books.
Skeets Jr. enlisted in the Air Force in 1943. He was sent to the South Pacific during World War II and flew more than 50 combat missions in a B-24. After being discharged in 1945, he enrolled at Rutgers in New Brunswick and in 1948 at the age of 25 he graduated with a degree in Dairy Manufacturing. He returned home to help with the business. He began working in the plant and was a milkman on a local milk route. He was married the same year, 1948, to Mary Edith. They had five children.
Windy graduated from Paulsboro in 1948. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1951 and was discharged in 1955. When he was discharged he came home and began working in the family's dairy business. He ran a milk route in the area. He was married in 1965 to Harriet and they had three children.
Elaine and Marian were both married and chose not to enter into the family business.
Heritage's Dairy Stores, Inc. was formed because Grandpop Skeets and Skeets Jr. saw that home delivery was decreasing. Grandpop Skeets and Skeets Jr. wanted to open a store in order to take care of the volume of milk that the milk plant produced. This was in the late 1950's and since there were no convenience stores in New Jersey, they investigated the possibility of opening a store in Gloucester County. They read Dairy Trade Journals and visited various parts of the country in search of ideas to model a future store.
Skeets Jr. found a convenience store chain in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio called Lawson’s Milk Company. He visited Lawson’s' Milk Company and learned the basic operations of that business. He received the idea of retail control from Lawson’s. He returned home to New Jersey and took the first steps to building Heritage's Dairy Stores. They searched for the perfect location and found it in Westville. The store was located on the site of an old hoagie shop and it took a couple of months to renovate the building. They picked this location because it was on the outer edge of their home delivery business and they did not want to disrupt that part of their business.
Grand Opening for store #1 in Westville was on October 10, 1957. When the store opened it had two employees. Its operating hours were from 9 am to 10 pm, seven days a week. The store was known primarily as a milk store but it sold bread, candy, cigarettes, packaged meats and some groceries.
Heritage's was the first store to sell milk in gallon jugs in the state of New Jersey and was a pioneer in the state of New Jersey in regards to being the first convenience store.
Today Heritage's Dairy Stores, Inc. employs over 400 people and is currently operated under the direction Skeeter Heritage. We still use our own unique milk recipe, making the sweetest, freshest milk in town. We wholesale candy, tobacco and groceries from our own Heritage’s Wholesale Company, which supplies our stores with over 75% of all the products they sell. Employees of Heritage’s deliver products to our stores on a daily basis. We have our own Construction & Service Team, which builds and maintains our stores and corporate offices. We have a Human Resources and Employee Development Department which is the base from which all orientation and professional development programs are taught. HR develops designs and presents workshops to all the employees in order to help them develop themselves on a business and personal level.
Our vision is to be recognized as a leader in the Convenience Store Industry by exceeding our guests' expectations. Our purpose is to exceed the expectations of our guests and fellow employees and share the rewards of financial growth. We believe in M.A.G.I.C., making a great impression on our customer (guest). It is thru our MAGIC that we will achieve our vision. Heritage's is a young and progressive company. Much has been accomplished over the past 70 years, but it is only the beginning. People are the most important part of our business and it is our goal to continue to grow and develop into a company that serves our employees and guests better than any other company.
If you have any questions call us at (856) 845-2855