Higher Ideals

February 20, 2014

Generosity. Kindness. Relationships. Those Hart family values are alive and well in Rochester. So are many descendants of the first Harts who arrived here and built their namesake grocery store business.

Doug Gallant
Doug Gallant

Doug Gallant is one of them. The Brighton resident is the great grandson of Moses Hart, an immigrant who opened the family’s first store in Rochester. Doug’s great uncle was Alfred Hart, who presided over Hart’s growth into a thriving chain of neighborhood grocery stores. And Alfred’s brother, Leo, owned a Rochester print shop that produced Hart’s first sales coupons—a retail innovation in its day.

Doug himself is a merchant, too. He retired in 2010 after 37 years owning and running a jewelry shop at Midtown Plaza named Diamond Doug’s.

Doing business is clearly in the family’s blood. So is giving back. Today, Doug serves on the board of Project Homeless, a local charitable organization. Giving back is part of his family’s legacy, and he credits his mother, Phyllis Gallant, granddaughter to Moses Hart, with keeping that spirit alive.

“My mom talked about the Hart family continuously. Uncle Alfred. Uncle Leo,” Doug says. “She instilled in all of us how proud we should be of our family.”

So proud, in fact, that she named Doug’s late brother Michael Hart Gallant.

Doug’s mother has also since passed away. He wishes she could be here to see the opening of the new store.

“She would be so proud of this project,” he says.

As Hart’s grew in Rochester throughout the early 20th century, the family prospered. They built a grand home on the city’s legendary East Avenue. Its large footprint formed an “H” with a ballroom as its centerpiece. The house still stands today.

An inside page of Alfred Hart’s “Higher Ideals,” inscribed with a message to Doug Gallant’s grandparents, Hattie and Sam Kaplan.

But amid his good fortune, Alfred Hart kept a powerful spirit of generosity and community. He served those in need. He helped families of all backgrounds and religions. His collected wisdom was published in a small volume titled “Higher Ideals.” The book has helped maintain Alfred’s strong emphasis on kindness and decency in his descendants—including Doug. He inherited a copy that has an inscription from Alfred to his grandparents inside.

Among the pearls of wisdom in the book? We’re all brothers under the skin.

“It’s all about what you need in your life and what you should strive for,” Doug says. “To be honest. To always reach out to the other person. Since I’ve retired, that’s become even more important.”

The leather-bound spine of a well-preserved copy of “Higher Ideals,” by Alfred Hart.

Coming from a family that’s big on legacies, Doug appreciates that the new Hart’s Local Grocers has not only adopted his family’s name, but cares about its heritage—and the town where it prospered.

“The idea of putting a grocery store in the East End is such an incredible thing,” Doug says of the new Hart’s. “To have a really nice grocery store downtown is wonderful—they’re going to do a beautiful job.”

There’s a name to live up to, after all.

* * *

Watch for more stories, pictures, and memorabilia from Hart descendants in the months to come.

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  • Now that I see the picture of the book “higher ideals” it is the book I used to have.
    I was very young when my mom (who has since passed) picked up a copy of that book, I think at a garage sale. I kept that book for years and it moved with me from Rochester, to Ohio, and I think back to Rochester-not sure- because I haven’t seen it in a long time; sometime in my life it disappeared. Maybe when I eventually clean out my books in the basement I’ll come accross it. I’m hoping!

  • Hi there, Ellen! How very cool that the “Higher Ideals” book has traveled with you all these years! If you come across it again, be sure to let us know! We’d love to see it.

    – Trevor, Hart’s Local Grocers Communications Team

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