Fruit Center Marketplace

Many items are arranged in wicker baskets.

Suburban Boston is a competitive hot spot when it comes to supermarkets, with Stop & Shop, Shaw’s/Star Market, Market Basket and Roche Bros. duking it out for market share. It is a pie that is getting smaller as Wegmans and Trade Joe’s step up their expansion efforts into the area.

But through it all, Fruit Center Marketplace – also known as FC Marketplace – with stores in Milton and Hingham, Mass., has held steady, growing sales by stocking a vast array of fresh produce, along with hard-to-find local artisan groceries and perishables. They are complemented by outstanding customer service and charitable efforts that have endeared the company to its communities. This year Fruit Center Marketplace celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Richard Turcsik explored the store’s vast array of fresh foods.

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Fruit Center Marketplace

Fruit Center Marketplace’s Milton, Mass. store exudes a country charm, even though it is located in a densely populated Boston suburb.

Fruit Center Marketplace

Fruit Center Marketplace is located in a tiny company-owned shopping center called Milton Marketplace where it is the anchor tenant along with CVS/Pharmacy, Kinnealey Meat Shop, Rocky Neck Fish and Mike’s Fresh Sushi operate concessions inside the store, while The Nutshell/Toy Chest and The Gift Garden are located on the second floor, along with the Fruit Center-owned Marketplace Café.

Fruit Center Marketplace

Outdoor plants are a key draw during the growing season.

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The original Fruit Center was located in Weymouth. It closed in the 1980s.

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Fruit Center Marketplace’s management team includes (from left) Mike Mignosa, son of founder Don Mignosa and store manager; Michael Dwyer, marketing director; and Steve DiGiusto, general manager. Mike’s brother Mark is manager of the Hingham store.

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Floral is very big at the Milton store.

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The store delivers arrangements to Milton and surrounding towns.

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Gift baskets overflowing with local products are also popular.

Fruit Center Marketplace

Shoppers entering the Milton store are greeted by a display of Simpson Spring soda, one of hundreds of local artisan products found throughout the store. Within its first month it quickly became a best-seller.

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Simpson Spring soda includes unusual flavors like White Birch and Sarsaparilla.

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Fruit Center Marketplace’s biggest draw is its outstanding produce department.

Fruit Center Marketplace

Many items are arranged in wicker baskets.

Fruit Center Marketplace

Many items are arranged in wicker baskets.

Fruit Center Marketplace

Many items are arranged in wicker baskets.

Fruit Center Marketplace

The Swiss chard is especially fresh!

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No, the photographer was not drunk. This display was built on an angle to entice shoppers.

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Fruit Center Marketplace’s buyers hit the wholesale produce markets six days a week. As a result, they are able to stock out-of-the-ordinary items, like frisée...

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...and Upland Cress.

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Store prepared items, like shoestring carrots are popular with shoppers.

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Items come from near and far.

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There are pickled red beets from Lithuania...

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...and Bibb lettuce flown in from Holland.

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But the fiddlehead ferns unfurled in nearby Hadley, Mass.

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The rhubarb is crisp and fresh!

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Fruit Center Marketplace also does a huge job with organics, and its prices are much cheaper than those at the large chain stores.

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Private label peaches and pears, packed in old-fashioned mayonnaise jars, are featured in the produce aisle.

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It is always “salad days” at Fruit Center Marketplace.

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That’s because the salad bar is a whopping 48 feet long and stocks over 100 different items! It accounts for 5% of total store sales.

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In addition to pre-made salads customers can make their own creations...

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... using fresh chopped lettuce.

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They can choose from dozens of toppings, like peas, edamame, breaded eggplant and hot peppers.

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There are also pasta salads...

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...proteins, like meatballs, tuna, turkey and chicken...

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...and an extensive dessert section...

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...where the apples are diced nice and the watermelon chunks are lined up like soldiers.

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In an unusual twist, the meat department is leased by Kinnealey Quality Meats.

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They supply the finest steakhouses in Boston...

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...and also sell sausage, chicken, lamb and pork.

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The seafood counter is leased to Rocky Neck Fish Co., which supplies the best seafood houses in Boston.

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The other leased department is Mike’s Fresh Sushi. It stocks a wide variety of unusual made-on-premise sushi, including breaded soft shell crab, cooked eel and avocado, spicy tuna and strawberry and spicy tuna cashews and wasabi sauce, complemented with a full line of imported Japanese teas and soft drinks.

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Fruit Center Marketplace was one of the original customers of Stonewall Kitchen and carries the gourmet company’s complete product line.

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In addition, the store carries an extensive selection of private label sauces, dressings, marinades, pickles and jams.

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The private label pumpkin butter is popular.

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Bulk foods are packaged upstairs in the kitchen area.

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These pimento olive chocolate almonds would pair well with a chocolate martini.

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For a small store, Fruit Center Marketplace carries a large selection of wines.

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The wines are very reasonably priced.

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A beer case was added to the store in December.

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It is full of local craft brands, like Wachusett...

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...Mayflower...

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...and Berkley, which is a one-man “three barrel nano brewery” operation produced in an old barn in Berkley, Mass.

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The prepared foods case includes sandwiches...

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... heat-and-eat entrees...

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...and a vast assortment of salads, fresh pasta and store-made marinara sauce that is sold in quart plastic tubs.

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Items are also available in the service case.

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All of the items are made in the kitchen upstairs.

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The cheese case contains a wide variety and specializes in local New England items.

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Baked goods are sourced from the finest local bakeries.

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Fruit Center Marketplace specializes in stocking local and regional brands, like Polar soft drinks from Worcester, Mass.

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There are dozens of local pet foods.

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The packaging on Lizzy’s ice cream from Waltham, Mass. really stands out on the shelf.

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But it can’t hold a candle to the Cummaquid Coconut from Cape Cod Creamery.

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Cape Cod Creamery, along with Brigham’s, are popular local brands.

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Because of Boston’s heavy Irish population, Fruit Center Marketplace devotes an end cap to groceries imported from Ireland.

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