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SMALL BIZ SPOTLIGHT: Tom’s Natural Foods in Clinton transitions to new ownership

By Frank Cetera


From left to right: Jason Townsend, Nancy Morelle, and Andrew Sblendorio. (PHOTO CREDIT: TOM SBLENDORIO, TOMSTUDIOS.COM)


CLINTON, N.Y. — The community of Clinton has been the home of Tom’s Natural Foods (originally known as Whole Earth Natural Foods) at 16 College St. for almost 50 years. 

Any business with such a long run of success is undoubtedly going to reach a time for succession, where the owners are ready for retirement, certainly wanting their life’s work and legacy to continue. 

And so it was with Tom’s Natural Foods, where founder Tom Bell and co-owner Bonnie Wood sought to bid farewell.

In stepped Jason Townsend (professor of environmental science at Hamilton College and owner of the certified organic Kingfisher Farm in Sauquoit), Nancy Morelle (co-owner of Old Path Farm in New Hartford and part-time employee at Tom’s), and Andrew Sblendorio of Marcy, who contacted the Onondaga Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for assistance in navigating this business purchase.

Starting in January 2020, I assisted the buyers with understanding their business-entity options, as they were initially looking at forming a consumer cooperative. At the same time, the buyers were examining at the potential sale price that the owners had discussed with them and trying to determine if it was reasonable and feasible. 

Using ProfitCents software, and the financial information from IRS tax-return documents that Tom’s Natural Foods provided, I was able to develop five-year projections, a basic valuation for the buyers to use in comparison to the original offer, and a narrative report explaining some of the ratios and statistics from the analysis. 

After an online Zoom meeting to review the report, which turned out to be a valuation close to the sellers’ asking price, the buyers had confidence in the upcoming transaction, and surety that they had done their due diligence in the process. Co-owner Andrew Sblendario says, “Frank Cetera and the SBDC answered all of our questions with an ease and clarity that really allowed us to proceed with confidence into this new venture.”

The transition to the new owners operating the business did get pushed forward from the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. The doors of Tom’s Natural Foods reopened with its new owners on June 2, 2020, exactly 48 years to the day from when Tom’s originally opened in 1972.

A customer peruses the shelves at Tom’s Natural Foods in Clinton. (PHOTO CREDIT: TOM SBLENDORIO, TOMSTUDIOS.COM)

Sblendorio, Morelle, and Townsend actively engage with their local community through social media and traditional personal networking. They also work hard to put a major emphasis on local and regional products like meats, produce, mushrooms, breads, and more.

Sblendario says, “The community surrounding Tom’s in Clinton is just amazing. People are so excited we are back open … and we are so happy to feed into that energy with many of the staples they’ve come to love, plus as many new and exciting offerings as we can get our hands on.”

For more information about Tom’s Natural Foods, visit its Facebook page at 

Advisor’s Business Tip: Keeping good records includes ensuring that tax returns and documents are properly completed, submitted, and filed for future use. These legal documents can become the backbone of business analysis for a buy/sell transaction, or for more regular and ongoing business-operations and efficiencies analysis that an SBDC advisor can assist with using the ProfitCents software platform from Abrigo.      

Frank Cetera is an advanced certified business advisor at the SBDC, located at Onondaga Community College. Contact him at

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