Army Veteran Uses His Military Experience to Become “The Green Grocer”

Vet Wood

A U.S. armed forces veteran who serves as majority owner of a firm that has been in business at least three years and shows evidence of success in sales and profits, job creation, and has an innovative product or service, may be nominated for the Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year Award.


The Green Grocer is an independent retailer in Portsmouth, specializing in natural and organic food products. The 3,000-square-foot store features a unique connection to local growers by providing Aquidneck Island with a one-stop shopping experience for natural and organic foods.


Owner and general manager John Wood started out learning about the natural and organic lifestyle from his wife, Aly.


After serving in the U.S. Army for four years, which included a tour of duty in Desert Storm in 1991, John found himself suffering some symptoms of what came to be known as Gulf War Syndrome. A Veterans Administration doctor suggested to John that GWS was actually a form of “environmental illness,” meaning that just like we have an immune system for bacteria and viruses, we also have one for chemicals and environmental toxins. John’s doctor suggested eliminating as many of the environmental toxins from his everyday life as he could and producing a regimen of vitamins and minerals to supplement the body’s deficiencies.


Prior to opening The Green Grocer, John used his experience as a military cook to enter the restaurant industry, where he moved up into management in the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain.


In 2001, John decided to change his career path and became the general manager of Harvest Natural Foods in Newport. Five years later, with financing from Coastway Community Bank and guaranteed by the SBA, John realized his dream of operating a full-service natural and organic food store. The Green Grocer opened its doors in 2007.


The next five years were challenging because the economy took a nosedive and the newly formed business would struggle to keep its footing. It was mainly though support from the community, family and friends and additional financial assistance from Coastway Community Bank and the SBA that John managed to keep the business viable and successful.


Prior to opening the business, John turned to the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center to help fine-tune his business plan so it would be attractive to investors and lenders.


The RISBDC later assisted John with his accounting requirements by teaching him how to use popular accounting software, inviting him to participate in a strategic planning program, and providing assistance with evaluating marketing materials, the company’s website and human resources.


The Green Grocer has had steady growth over the years and currently has 11 employees. Wood projects that the company will generate $1.5 million in sales this year. That is nearly double the sales the company had in the first year of operation.


The focus remains on the quality of the ingredients in products sold by The Green Grocer. He makes certain that the food he sells does not contain trans fats, additives, high-fructose corn syrup, growth hormones, artificial coloring and high sugar content.


When John is not in The Green Grocer, he enjoys growing his own organic foods, spending time with his family and camping.


John has realized the dream of owning a full-service natural and organic food store. However, his vision for the future includes expanding beyond 3,000 square feet. He envisions a much larger Green Grocer where customers will come from far and wide to enjoy the absolute best in foods and products, rivaled only by the amazing service he and his team provide.


The U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor John H. Wood II, owner and general manager of The Green Grocer in Portsmouth, with the 2014 Rhode Island Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year Award.

Leave a comment

Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

previous arrow
next arrow