James F. Harron, Sr.
It is with profound sadness that we report the passing of Jim Harron Sr., an icon, a master storyteller, a man with a thirst for knowledge and lover of life. Jim passed away on January 18 peacefully at home surrounded by family. He and his wife, Joan, bought Simpson & Vail in the 70’s and worked together here for 44 years. They took an almost failing business and turned it into the brand you see today. While they turned the reins of the company over to their eldest son, Jim, and daughter, Cyndi, years ago, they still came to work every day. Jim was in the store entertaining customers as recently as this Christmas season, delighting them with stories about teas or some of the marvelous adventures he’s had and discoveries he’s made over the years. He will be sorely missed by his family, all the employees here, his friends and the community. Jim lived life to the fullest and cherished every day. We hope to honor him by doing the same.
Here at Simpson & Vail, the Harron family's mission is to uphold the highest standards in quality, service and value, in order to best serve you, our faithful customers.
We are dedicated to bringing you the finest quality, most health conscious products available at the fairest prices.
The Harron Family: From left to right: Jim Sr., Joan, Cyndi, Monica, Jim Jr., James, Paulina.
Simpson & Vail, Inc. is an old time tea company and was originally founded as a green coffee merchant in 1904 by Augustus M. Walbridge on Water Street in New York City as Augustus M. Walbridge, Inc.
Mr. Walbridge, Photograph courtesy of Margaret Trapp Cruse
In 1929, Mr. Walbridge sold the business to Mr. Simpson, the accountant, and
Mr.Lester Vail, the tea taster. Hence, a great business was born.
Lester B. Vail, Photograph courtesy of Margaret Trapp Cruse
For years Simpson & Vail, Inc. was located In New York City on Water St., then Front St., then Park Place. Besides the location changes, the business grew and numerous phases occurred. From 1929 to 1962, bulk tea was the only product Simpson & Vail, Inc. carried. In 1962 roasted coffee and teabags were added. Late in 1978, Jim and Joan Harron purchased Simpson & Vail Inc., and in 1979, they added specialty food products and tea accessories as well as expanding the tea and coffee lines.
Here is Jim Sr. sitting by a piece of Simpson & Vail history, the roll top desk that was Lester Vail's personal desk in 1929 (86 years old). The desk was given to us by Barbara Cruse and Mary Gannon, daughters of Margaret Trapp Cruse who was the first Simpson & Vail employee in 1929 and retired from S&V in the mid 1970's. (See Margaret’s bio below.) After Margaret retired she was given some S&V memorabilia, which she had cared for until she passed away on July 16, 2012.
We were also fortunate to receive two pictures, one featuring Wall Street circa 1847 and the other South Street at the corner of Maiden Lane circa 1828 and a wall hanging clock with pendulum motion. This clock and the photos were in the office of Simpson & Vail as well as a balance scale and a stamp spindle (pictured on top of the desk in the photo).
A celebration of the life of a wonderful lady…
Margaret Barbara Trapp Cruse
Wife, Mother, Cook, Humanitarian …. And an integral part of the Simpson & Vail story!
(left - Margaret Trapp (Cruse) & Lester Vail – Wall Street, NYC 1932)
Born on May 21, 1912, Margaret celebrated her 100th birthday this year before passing away at her home on July 16th after a short illness. Margaret was an integral part of Simpson & Vail starting in the late 1920’s. Her daughters, Barbara and Mary, have kindly shared with us a few details about Margaret that we didn’t previously know.
Margaret was hired by Mr Vail in 1928, when she was just 16 years old, to be his personal assistant. She also did typing for Augustus Walbridge, the original owner of S&V, at his office that was in the same building as S&V at 89 Front Street in New York City. In 1942 Margaret left S&V when she became pregnant with her eldest daughter, Barbara. From 1942 until 1959, as busy as she was being a wife and a mother (to her daughters Barbara and Mary), Margaret still managed to find time to work at S&V during the busy Christmas season or when her replacement took her summer vacation. In 1959, when her replacement moved out of the area, Margaret, facing college tuition expenses for her daughters, returned full-time to work at S&V. After Mr. Vail passed away, Margaret ran S&V herself until the business was sold in the mid 1970’s.
Margaret had many accomplishments in her life – certainly in her era. And while her successes in the business world of S&V were important to those of us that followed her, Margaret's joy was her husband of 48 years, Clinton, and their daughters. In the years to follow Margaret would also enjoy the company of her ever expanding family as well as squeeze in the time for a lot of volunteer work and bringing smiles to people’s faces through her talent as a cook and baker.
We were fortunate enough to have been visited by Margaret and varying family members several times over the years. Her knowledge of the early days at S&V helped to fill in some of our gaps about the origin of the company and the people who started it all!
When she passed away Jim, Sr. attended her wake in New Jersey. There in the room her daughter Mary had set up a table commemorating Margaret’s dedication to her time at Simpson & Vail - her favorite teapot, 2 cups and saucers, some scones and a box of S&V Ceylon tea.
We wanted to take the time today to tell you about Margaret, to share with you the story of how one woman made a difference to so many people. All of us here are thankful that we had the opportunity to get to know her and her family.
We value the relationship we have with our customers - many of you have become like family. And we appreciate when you take the time to let us know how we're doing.
See below for a small sample of the many compliments that we have received.
I just wanted to tell you it has been such a pleasure dealing with Simpson & Vail over the years. It feels like we're family.
I know why I’ve been a customer for 30 years, you guys rock!!!
I received my order or tea last week and I smile every time I open the cabinet and look for my choice of tea to make now. The blend is always different and I enjoy every flavor. Thank you for making “stay at home” during this pandemic more tolerable. Drinking your tea makes me so happy.
Mary Jo 1/26/21
I was a first time customer. I have seen your ad many times in Tea Time magazine. I drink a lot of tea and I like my tea black. I have never much cared for flavored or herbal tea. To be honest, I ordered the St. Nick Tea because it was a cute tin and I thought it would be a nice Christmas decoration on my shelf. I decided to make a pot of it one day and I have been drinking it ever since. It is so good. Not quite a convert yet but I have been enjoying it in the afternoon during the holidays.
I really enjoyed talking to you and am excited to try the new teas. The order arrived today and what I have smelled so far smells awesome.We are about to have the Mrs. Gray blend. Everything was packaged so nice and we are excited to have new tea!
Laura Ann 12/04/20
My order arrived yesterday and I had to let you know how thrilled I am with everything. It was carefully packaged and arrived quickly. I tried one of the flavored teas yesterday and it is wonderful! Thank you for the excellent service.
I thank you, your family and staff for the wonderful service and products you provide. They are essential to my wellness and happiness.
Our family recently placed an order to replenish all of our favorite Dessert Teas. We did not have to wait long, as y’all always send our teas out promptly! … It has become even more “special” in this time of stress. Thank you for a wonderful bit of “love in a pot” that tucks us in each night.
I discovered your teas a few months ago and my sister and I love them! We both love National Parks and tea so the starter NP pack was perfect! Now we are exploring other teas.
BEST customer service of any company I know! And your products are amazing!!! Thank you from this forever loyal customer.
I received your lilac tea. And I want to tell you I love it and I will be ordering more thank you so much for making such a wonderful product … I love the stuff.
I just received my Almond Sugar Cookie tea and I cannot thank you enough! It smells heavenly and I thoroughly enjoyed its flavor. As a diabetic who needs to learn to curb my sugar cravings, drinking tea is not only hydrating, but the flavor of this dessert tea is just what I need to prevent myself from wanting to take a bit of a real almond sugar cookie! I cannot wait to sample the Zion - National Park Tea that you enclosed! My daughter loves the smell of lavender, so I am sure she will enjoy it when I brew this one! Thank you again for such prompt service and providing such a stellar quality tea.
I recently ordered tea from you for my very first time and I just wanted to say I was blown away! It is by far the best I’ve ever had! Also, it is very present the care that is taken for your packaging and the catalog of teas is fantastic! It really shows that you guys care about your customers. In the short time that I’ve had the tea I’ve told almost everyone I know about it just because it’s so good! Will definitely be ordering from you exclusively now! So glad that I found you guys randomly while searching on google! I hope this email finds you well! You guys rock!
Thank you so much. Hope you and the rest of the family are being safe and healthy. Thank you again for still being open for online orders. Having tea has been my happy place during this time.
Thank you for the presentation and delicious teas I received. I grew up in Brookfield and loved having you practically next-door. I live in Providence now and I am a photographic educator who was traveling all over the world and through-out the states leading photographic tours and workshops. Now all have been canceled or postponed. That was one of the reasons I ordered the national parks tea sampler. I feel like I am traveling with your teas. I brew my tea and virtually travel in my mind and heart. Yesterday I was in the Shenandoah Valley, the day before Acadia and today in Yellowstone. I am teaching virtually now and I share the story every day with my students and my virtual trips with my teas to these National Parks. Simpson and Vail has been comforting to me on many levels the least of which how wonderful your teas are.
I ordered a box of your dessert teas for my daughter’s birthday a few weeks ago and she loves it! She was so tickled with how lovely the packaging was and with all the many kinds of tea to try!
Love having a go-to, family-run company for gifts to friends.
I was enjoying a cup of your Yosemite tea and I was thinking that I should brew a pot and watch a video of the park while enjoying it. (like many of us working from home) So here’s to the weekend and a trip to Yosemite! Thanks, tea always makes things a little better.
Although everyone needs to take extra care to stay well these days, finding more time for tea is a great respite, and a much appreciated moment of restful calm, focused tranquil attention, and "normalcy" -- and of course your company's teas taste GREAT, which makes it an especially enjoyable treat! Sometimes during the day I think back to the morning's first cup -- often piping hot sweet Cranberry Orange -- and remind myself any day that starts off like that is pretty good, and another is something to look forward to.
I wanted you to know how much I appreciate your being there, providing access to your fantastic teas during these troubled times.… The teas I have received have been fresh and of the highest quality I've had access to for many years. The tea blends are elegant, many layered and very very well thought through. There is a "completeness" about them.
Thank you for showing us why small businesses are the best!!
I am a brand new customer who found you online and decided to take a chance on you because you're a small business . I thought the smaller business aspect might translate to fresher tea, more unique blends, and more personal service. … My first order arrived today with the special instructions for delivery HAND WRITTEN on the package front. I have never, ever seen that, and as I opened my gorgeous navy floral infuser mug I couldn't help notice how extremely well it was packaged and wrapped it was for shipping. Now I've written all that and haven't said a word about the teas! I have only had time since the package arrived to try the Victorian Earl Grey which is absolutely luscious but can't wait to try the others. I suspect this order is the beginning of a long and happy relationship between me and Simpson & Vail Tea.
Mary Fran 3/4/20
Thank you for your very good customer support with the charges and notification when the shipment was sent. It is rare nowadays to have such quick response.
I appreciate your help and quick responses to my emails. It’s so important and not always valued by many. Hope you and your family have a blessed holiday season!
One of the reasons I love buying tea from you is that there is always a person who responds!
I am a professional travel writer and I must have your tea with me wherever I go for' my daily afternoon pick me up or I will not be able to write;-)
I wanted to let you know how much my Mom and I enjoy your teas. She found your company several years ago when we were looking for an iced tea. Needless to say after several purchases we have never looked elsewhere for our teas:)
I love your customer service, I love the quality of your herbs and spices, I love your packaging, and most of all I really love all of you at Simpson and Vail...so lovely to do business with!
For years and year and years my parents have been singing the praises of your company. A sip of tea at their house has always been a welcome reprieve from a sip of tea at my house because their cupboards always boast a dignified and thoughtful assortment of Simpson & Vail teas… whereas my pathetic cupboard is, at best, stocked with tea so boring in both pedigree and taste that it is sometimes more exciting just to suck down a glass of luke-warm tap water instead.
Cut to this Christmas Eve... Upon learning that my husband and I are attempting to become coffee drinkers, my parents gifted us a percolator and batch of your Irish Cream Coffee. Well, I will have you know that the moment my husband awoke on Christmas Day to brew our first batch, life as we knew it changed. Suddenly, our tiny Manhattan apartment, was filled with the indescribably delicious scent of your aromatic coffee! A scent that lingers so extraordinarily for hours thereafter that both of us considered never leaving the house again just so we can stay home and sniff it. And upon tasting the Irish Cream coffee, our minds got officially blown. Prior to this, the husband and I didn’t really understand what coffee connoisseurs meant by how 'fine coffee tastes better'. Now we get it!
As a result of our bragging about our new coffee addiction, my dad, a life-long coffee drinker, actually bought himself a batch of your Irish Cream Coffee. This is big news, Harrons, as my father is not one for flavored coffee. That’s how much our rave reviews intrigued him. As for us? Well, we panicked this week as we noted our current batch of Irish Cream was rapidly depleting. So I just ordered a bunch more. Knowing our shipment is on the way right now means my husband and I have reason to live. So, thank you. For helping my parents prove to us two Generation Xers what they've known all this time. That a fine cup of coffee or tea, purchased from a legendary family run business, can make all the difference in the world.
I just wanted to send you a quick email to let you all know that you are awesome! I have tried so many different teas, and once I found your tea, it is the only tea I buy. My co worker, who is very picky about tea tried your tea and told me it is the only he will buy now and has thanked me many times for introducing him to your company. He even told me that he needed help with an order and called your company and said he was so impressed with how great your customer service as well. You guys are the best! I appreciate the quality you put into your tea, the many fun flavors to choose from, and the fast shipping! Your company is loved here in Utah!
...Last, you are to be commended on your staff. When I have talked to them off and in through the years (and I know my eldest son, who told me about you as he’d been a customer for years, agrees), they are invariably wonderful in providing customer service. Good for you!
Ordered for the first time the literary collection. I am a librarian and wanted something unique for my workmates. Put a packet in each of their mailboxes according to the author that fit each of them. I am not kidding when I say everyone loved their tea and the name on it, even the non-tea drinkers. Your catalogue is already well worn. I have placed a second order just for me and am counting the days. Kudos to you all.
I used to buy tea from many different sources, but for the last year or so I've bought from no one other than Simpson & Vail, and I don't see that ever changing.
I just wanted to say thank you for your terrific service and high quality tea. I have been looking for variety loose leaf teas for a long time and found nothing I particularly cared for until my mother-in-love introduced me to Simpson and Vail. We are now in the habit of twice a week "taking tea" together, and we love it! It has brought us closer together.
I first purchased your tea back in the mid 70's or early 80's. At that time my dad owned a typewriter repair company and S & V was one of his customers. My earliest memories were going upstairs to your offices and seeing long tables with different types of tea being blended. I'm now in my upper 60's and still love your Russian Caravan tea. No other company matches your blend.