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Updated: March 2, 2020 Business Leaders of the Year

The Hyders have grown on their unique grocery legacy

Photo | Matt Wright Miriam & Gregory Hyder

In the age of enormous supermarkets and online specialty markets, running a local family-owned store may seem difficult. Then again, running a store during Worcester’s more difficult years in the 1980s and ‘90s might seem hard, too. Through it all, Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Marketplace has remained a community institution.

Edna Hyder

After the market’s founder and namesake died in 2018, his children Miriam and Gregory and his wife Edna continued his work – and built on it.

“We try to think of what he would say if there’s a new product or a big change we’re thinking about,” Miriam said.

What Ed often said, according to Gregory, is “dance with the girl who brought you.” In other words, “you keep the traditional things here that made you who you are. But, at the same time, Miriam and I have made a point to bring in new products,” Gregory said.

That approach has turned the market, housed in an old fire station, into a destination for a diverse cross-section of the city. Customers who first visited the store as children now show up with kids of their own. People who work in the area stop by for lunch. College students and gourmets seeking a particular hard-to-find spice mingle in the aisles.

When Ed Hyder opened the store at its original location nearby, groceries were already a family business. His father and uncle had a corner market and butcher shop on the city’s east side.

“He wanted to do his own thing with imported foods,” Miriam said.

He began importing food like cheese and olives, offering a taste of his own Lebanese heritage and also catering to his Greek, Armenian, and Middle Eastern neighbors. He took special requests.

“If someone needs something but it’s not going to fly off the shelves, he would keep it in stock regardless of that it might not be a big money maker,” Gregory said.

The store has been a constant presence in the lives of many Worcesterites, including Julian Davis Wade, president of Worcester textbook firm Davis Publications.

“Some of my first memories are the smell of the spices in that store,” Wade said. “They have a unique product. They have a unique store. I think also it is the trust and emotional connection that people have to that store.”

Wade has multiple connections to the store, from playing in jazz band with Gregory in high school and having Edna as a teacher to the fact his assistant’s first job was working at the market.

“They’re such a tight family, and even those who are not blood family are still family,” Wade said.

Miriam and Gregory grew up working in the store, along with their sister Alexis, who now lives out of state.

“He armed us with so much knowledge and years of experience,” Miriam said. “He trusted us to really start handing over a lot of responsibility.”

Edna, who didn’t formally work at the store when she was teaching, has now joined in as part of the family business, advising and helping with the books.

“She brings a new outlook, holds us more accountable sometimes,” Miriam said. “She does keep us on track.”

With international sections of supermarkets growing, the Hyders keep moving to provide unique products.

“We’re always ... on the hunt for new things,” Gregory said. “Eight months to a year after we’ve been carrying them, you’ll see them in bigger stores.”

Gregory and Miriam use Instagram to get in touch with small farms and unique local companies. They are proud of the range of unusual wines and olive oils from around the world. “When you look at our olive oil section, it’s like looking at a map,” Gregory said.

The Hyders change with the times, adding new specialties and altering the store’s physical layout to better serve its wide range of customers. They expect to remain a community institution for a long time. Miriam even has plans for the next generation. She and her husband have a 13-month old daughter.

“She is a future employee, for sure,” she said.

Read about the other 2020 Business Leaders of the Year

Small Business Leader of the Year: Brandale D. Randolph, founder & CEO, 1854 Cycling Co.

Large Business Leader of the Year: Harry Kokkinis, president, Table Talk Pies, Inc.

Nonprofit Business Leader of the Year: Stephanie Page, executive director, Abby's House

Innovative Business Leader of the Year: Paul Sellew, CEO, Little Leaf Farms

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