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Image: The City Market Greengrocer

Saint John grocer is Pete’s Frootique no more

By Scott Pettigrew Apr 17, 2023 | 11:00 AM

It’s been a City Market institution since 1982, but Pete’s Frootique is officially no more, as The City Market Greengrocer steps in to keep the fresh produce flowing.

“Getting used to saying ‘The City Market Greengrocer’ after 30 years of Pete’s Frootique, that’s probably the biggest challenge,” quips new owner Darren Lavigne in a phone interview with Huddle. He says the new name came naturally from the history of the business.

“Greengrocer is an English saying for someone who sells fruits and vegetables,” he says. “So we’re the same company, just rebranded.”

It’s a change in name only for the Saint John institution. New owner Darren Lavigne has been working at Pete’s for the past 30 years and has been an investor in the Saint John location for several years. Initially working with Pete’s Frootique Saint John owner Geoff Lander who ran the business in the 2000s, Lavigne became an investor in 2012.

When the original owner of the business, flamboyant Brit Pete Luckett, sold the Pete’s Frootique Nova Scotia stores and branding to Sobeys in 2015, Lavigne knew the time the Saint John location could retain the name would be short.

After taking full control of the City Market business in fall of 2022 by purchasing the remainder of the shares, he decided the time was right to make the new ownership official with a branding revamp.

“After 30 years I think it’s good for a change,” he says.

The new signage is up, and new totes promoting The City Market Greengrocer are available. But Lavigne says he’s keeping the recipe for success as the main produce seller at the historic market, unchanged.

“I’ve always taken great pride in my store, and we’ve always sourced things locally when we can,” he says. “Always premium products, great variety, great customer service.”

“We just kind of upped our game … elevated our brand a little bit.”

The focus at Greengrocer will remain retail Lavigne says, adding that local restaurants do pop in to see what’s available from time to time.

“I can’t really fill the gap for wholesale. But we’re in the Uptown area so a lot of restaurants come up here if they’re in a pinch and they need something here and there,” he says. “We definitely have a good relationship with a lot of restaurants.”

As part of The City Market Greengrocer brand, there is now a web presence at www.citymarketgreengrocer.com featuring offerings like specialty baskets that you can order online.

“We’re just starting small with fruit baskets,” he says. “For now we think people enjoy coming into the market and having that experience.”

Local customers are the bread and butter of the business but Lavigne says the cruise ship passengers are playing an ever expanding role in the business.

“I would say a good percentage of the people that come off the ships, come to the market…. September and October last year were some of our busiest months because of the cruise ships,” he says.

“When they walk by the door they’re definitely going to stop, not particularly for fruit and vegetables but we do sell a lot of unique groceries and fresh juice.”

Lavigne explains what he means by unique groceries.

“I always import groceries from the UK because, Pete was from the UK. Geoff started that a long time ago and I’ve kind of expanded it.”

“I would say half my store’s groceries now. Lots of stuff from Italy, Greece, the UK of course. And we expanded over COVID to just regular groceries as well, so we’ve got lots of pantry items for people Uptown.”

After 30 years as a produce seller Lavigne says he can’t imagine doing anything else, or being anywhere else.

“You just can’t replicate the flow of the market. The constant flow of people…it all creates a really good atmosphere. Yes, the market is a great place to work for sure.”

Alex Graham is a reporter for Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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