Bridgeville Business Person of the Year runs 100-year-old family business

By Lynn R. Parks

Rob Rider has an explanation for why his familys business has survived for a century.

It is constantly reinventing itself, he said.

O.A. Newton and Son in Bridgeville was started in 1916 by Riders grandfather and great-grandfather as a feed milling and processing plant. Through the years, it has sold International Harvester farm equipment, pre-fabricated homes and household appliances; today, it sells farm irrigation systems and products to hold and move along materials in manufacturing plants. Among those plants: plastic processors, companies that turn out wood composite products, and tile manufacturers.

The company also has a Farm and Ranch Store, opened two years ago in what used to be the farm machinery showroom. And last year, Rider and his wife, Susan, opened Body and Soul fitness, a gym in the Nylon Capitol Shopping Center in Seaford.

Rider is president of the company that his grandfather and great-grandfather founded and where he started working when he was just 12. Last week, he was awarded the Business Person of the Year award by the Greater Seaford Chamber of Commerce.

I am not deserving of this award, Rider told chamber members at the annual chamber dinner, held Thursday at the Seaford Fire Hall. For a business to be 100-years-old, it takes a whole community and a lot of good people. We would be nothing without the people who support us.

Rider said that while what it offers has changed, O.A. Newton still has its roots in agriculture. That is evidenced by its new Farm and Ranch Store.

As for the fitness center, opening it was a whim, he said. He and Susan want Body and Soul to be a place that even people who have never been to a gym can feel comfortable visiting, he added.

Another Bridgeville business was also in the limelight at the chamber dinner. Kevin and Katie Evans, owner of Evans Farms, received the chambers Blazing New Trails Award.

The award recognizes business owners who, even in the light of challenges, take that extra step to expand their reach, said chamber director Lynn Brocato.

For three generations, members of the Evans family have managed the farm east of Bridgeville. Kevin, who took over in 2000, and Katie have opened a farm market, complete with drive-through window, on the property. They have also started Frozen Farmer, which sells frozen desserts including ice cream, popsicles, fruit smoothies and sorbets, at the farm, at Heritage Shores in Bridgeville and from a food truck.

The chamber gave out two Community Involvement Awards. Lora Schuler is a member of the board of directors at the Nanticoke Senior Center and is serving her sixth term as president. She oversaw the centers move into the former Seaford Country Club building and that buildings subsequent renovation.

John Rittenhouse is founder of Shift Destiny, a Christian organization aimed at preventing drug abuse and helping addicts, specifically heroin addicts. Sometimes life plans your fights for you, Rittenhouse said. Our city, the town that Ive loved, has fallen under the scourge of heroin addiction. We are working with churches, the chamber, the towns of Seaford and Blades and the police department to fight for our community.

Also handed out Thursday night was the chambers Volunteer of the Year award. Winner Susan Henry-Jones is owner of the Day Spa at the Marina, located in Blades.

She is someone who is always there at a moments notice, Brocato said.

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