As many of you know we lost our patriarch, Jim Harron Sr., on January 18th. Through the many hundreds of emails, posts, and cards that you sent us we know what an influence Jim had on your lives. He had an insatiable curiosity about people, places, art, food, and life experiences that allowed him to connect with so many different people.
He was a truly wonderful and special man. In the 15 or so years I’ve been coming to S&V every interaction with Jim was such a pleasant experience. From his stories, to just his general demeanor, the occasions I got to interact with Jim are great memories. Just last month or so I brought a friend to S&V for the first time and we got to chat with him for like 10 minutes, and we walked out and I told her see why I love coming here, what a great group of people. She says “I’m upset, and I only ever met him once, such was the vibe he gave off.” I feel so fortunate I got to see him recently then, I will miss him.
– Stephen R.
His career started in the newspaper industry with the Portchester Daily Item, Greenwich Times and with the New York Journal American. Then he transitioned into a career in textiles with Cannon Mills, Martex, WestPoint Pepperell, Bibb Manufacturing and Wamsutta Pacific.
His third and final career was as owner of Simpson & Vail, a tea & coffee company originally located in NY and currently located in Brookfield, CT. His start in the tea business comes down to being in the right place at the right time. On an early, chilly morning in the mid 1970’s Jim took his 2nd son, Peter, to hockey practice. There he spoke with another father and expressed his interest in looking for a new career. His textile career, though fulfilling, kept him on the road traveling and away from his family more than he’d like. “Are you interested in tea?”, the other father said. That father was the late, great David Walker of Walker Teas.
David had recently bought some shares in a NY mail order tea company that needed a new owner after the death of the previous owner, Lester Vail. Fascinated by this new world of teas, Jim and Joan invested in their future with a purchase of 50% of the shares in the company.
Until he felt confident in the products he was selling, Jim trained with David twice a week in tea tasting, tea processing etc.. In 1980, Jim and Joan officially purchased all shares of Simpson & Vail, and their great adventure began.
Jim and Joan ran the company together for years, moving from NYC to their hometown of Pleasantville, NY in 1982. It was there that 2 of their 4 kids, Jim and Cyndi, joined the business.
In 1997 the family moved to their current location in Brookfield, CT. The venerable author James Norwood Pratt wrote a fantastic article about Jim and Joan for TeaTime Magazine. You can read it here.
Jim Sr. loved to taste teas, read about the latest tea and coffee news, and visit with customers. He loved to travel and he loved spending weekends playing golf with Joan, although, in his own words, he “enjoyed, but never mastered, the game of golf”.
He certainly was a wonderful storyteller and all around sweet guy. He truly loves what he did and loved talking with the customers. I loved when I’d catch him in the store and chat. He always had something interesting to say. I will miss that interaction.
He would often say that the best part of his life was his family. He and Joan were married for almost 60 years and worked side by side for 45 years. His kids, Jim and Cyndi, count themselves extremely lucky to have been able to work with him for so many years.
People have asked what Jim’s favorite products were. While some of Jim’s tastes changed over the years, he was a consistent Assam tea drinker as well as Formosa Fancy Oolong. For the last few months Jim was making a blend of Assam & Pu-erh tea which he drank every day. His coffee of choice was Mocha Yemen Mattari. As for the treats we offer. there wasn’t a cookie or candy we brought in that he didn’t personally try and enjoy!
In fact, Jim had developed diabetes and wasn’t supposed to eat any sweets. But as any employee at S&V can tell you, Jim was often sneaking treats when he thought Joan wasn’t looking. We’re not sure which was funnier – watching him try to be stealthy or when Joan caught him and he’d get that little impish grin and make up some sort of nonsense (“it’s just a small bit”, “I need to make sure we’re not poisoning people” “my blood sugar was great this morning”…). Most days he’d pass through the store and help himself to something. When we took our year-end inventory no one was surprised when the cookie counts were off!
I was fortunate enough to meet Jim in person during a visit(s) to Simpson and Vail, and he delighted me with his personal charm and knowledge about teas and herbs etc..Jim was most certainly “one of a kind” for many different reasons and I personally loved how approachable he was.
– Pippa (Martin)
What will Jim’s legacy at S&V be? We hope to continue his tradition of friendly customer service, a genuine interest in others, a hunger for knowledge, and maintaining a good sense of humor (even when life throws you lemons). We miss you and we thank you for your incredible blueprint on how to live a fulfilling life!
“Our first visit he helped us pick out teas and treats for our child’s 13th birthday tea party. His attention to us and enthusiasm for tea were delightful. He will be missed.”