Ten Minutes with the CEO/Founder of Benchmark Senior Living

Fairfield Native, Tom Grape, Helps Seniors Live Well

Tom Grape

Tom Grape founded Benchmark Senior Living in 1997 and the company now has nearly 60 residences in eight states, employs 6,200 associates, and has about $2.5 billion in assets under agreement and $425 million in annual revenue. Benchmark’s latest residence is Sturges Ridge near Fairfield Ludlowe High School. Grape grew up in Fairfield, and although he has since moved away, returns often and has fond memories of his hometown. In an interview with TownVibe Fairfield, Tom discusses his upbringing in Fairfield and Benchmark’s beginnings.

Tell us a little bit more about growing up in Fairfield. 

I had a wonderful childhood in Fairfield. It was a great little town, and I used to ride my bike and hang out at the beach a lot. I have fond memories of the Dogwood Festival and Timothy Dwight School, the Memorial Day parades, and the baseball games because I was a big baseball fanatic.

How has Fairfield changed since you were a kid?

Of course, many new buildings and homes have been constructed since I was here, but I really feel that the town hasn’t changed much in terms of its core values. Despite its growth, Fairfield has been able to retain the essence of what it’s always been, which is a small, tight-knit community that’s focused on family.

How did you come to create Benchmark?

In 1991, I had joined a company before assisted living was even a category that existed to help bring assisted living to Massachusetts. We helped write the legislation that ultimately brought it to Massachusetts in 1994, and we opened some of the first purpose-built assisted living communities in Massachusetts.  The company I worked for was sold in 1996, so I decided to go off on my own and founded Benchmark in 1997.

What makes Sturges Ridge different from other communities?

At Benchmark our focus is on elevating human connection. We exist to keep residents and families connected to what matters most in their lives and to provide the experiences that will help them thrive. We’ve designed Sturges Ridge in a special way to singularly focus on providing those kinds of experiences that will set it apart from what people can find in any other senior living community in the Fairfield County area. Since Fairfield Ludlowe High School football games are so popular, we’ve created apartments with wonderful  “luxury box” views of the games. Also, art plays a big role in Fairfield, so we’ve engaged local artists to help us create an art gallery that’s a reflection of the community.

As a baseball lover, are you connected with Little League teams in town?

I played in Little League, the Babe Ruth League, and was a pitcher for Roger Ludlowe High School’s baseball team. Seeing our logo on Fairfield American shirts during Memorial Day was a special moment for me and reminds me of my days playing for the Greenfield Pharmacy, Clampett’s, and PAL teams in my youth.

What’s your personal mantra? 

Never give up when it matters. Live by your values. Make a difference.