Keep it fresh: The Fruit Center Marketplace

12/01/2013 10:42:00 AM
Pamela Riemenschneider



click image to zoomPamela RiemenschneiderMILTON, Mass.—In an area where major chains are looking to take a bite out of a vibrant and growing customer base, The Fruit Center Marketplace continues to focus on what’s made it successful for the past 40 years.

The two-store independent based in the South Boston suburbs stays true to its deep roots in produce.

“We’re a crossover store, somewhere between a Whole Foods and a traditional supermarket,” says general manager Steve Di Giusto. “The difference is our produce — how we do it separates us. We want to give quality at a fair price. That’s extremely important to our shoppers.”

Produce is the center of the store, the focal point for shoppers, and harkens back to the retailer’s beginnings as a fruit stand first opened in Weymouth in 1973. Over the years, the company divided between the family with the current direction of The Fruit Center Marketplace steered toward offering a full line of produce, meat, dairy and center-store items.

“We’ve always wanted to be the corner store,” says Mike Mignosa, son of founder Don Mignosa. “We’re a community store, the family store. We see familiar faces every day. It really means a lot to our customers to feel they really know us. Customers feel confident in the way we approach the business, especially in produce.”

With Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. opening several Boston area stores during the past year, including a new hybrid downscale store in nearby Weymouth, and Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans planning to open its first Boston stores any day now, The Fruit Center Marketplace has been focusing on building a strong relationship to its community.

The retailer launched a successful dinner series featuring notable Boston chefs presenting dishes and cooking demos this year. The classes sell out almost immediately, says Chris Lyons, who handles the classes and public relations for The Fruit Center Marketplace. The program costs $20 for participants, and each receives a $10 gift card to the store.

The Fruit Center is not your typical grocery store. Small in square footage, they make up for it in a carefully curated selection of produce. There aren’t space fillers here. Everything seems mindfully chosen for customers, and they seem to appreciate it. Most baskets I see are heavily laden with produce.

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