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After More Than 50 Years, the Iconic Masstown Market still Thrives on ‘Family Values’

By Sponsored Jun 19, 2023 | 12:00 PM

This is the second in a series of stories from the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce highlighting the success and innovation of its members. The Atlantic Chamber of Commerce represents more than 16,000 businesses, of all sizes and in all sectors, through its network of 90 chambers of commerce across the four Atlantic provinces.

More than 50 years ago, in 1969, a Nova Scotia farmer named Eric Jennings couldn’t get the big grocery chains in his town to buy his produce.
Frustrated that he had no good place to sell what he had grown, Jennings, his wife Priscilla, and a business partner bought a piece of land, parked a half-ton truck on it, and started selling fresh fruits and veggies out of the back.

The Jennings couldn’t have known it at the time, but the modest operation that locals affectionately called the “fruit stand” would eventually grow into a massive business that drives the economy well beyond its home community.

Today, the iconic Masstown Market sits on about 50 acres of land straddling the Trans Canada Highway, in Masstown Nova Scotia.

It has grown far beyond the fruit stand to include restaurants, a butcher shop, creamery, seafood shop, gas station, and even an interpretive centre. But it goes beyond that. Masstown Market also provides several community services, like a community centre, pharmacy, and medical office.

At its busiest, the market employs well over 200 people, everyone from bakers, cashiers, restaurant staff, butchers, accountants, marketing managers, and even a red seal carpenter.

Ron Smith is Masstown Market’s business development manager. He says the story of the Masstown Market is one of steady growth and improvements driven by an uncompromising, customer-first philosophy.

“I really believe that those original values of cooperation between local farmers, those family values, are what keeps this place going,” he says.

“As corny as it sounds, you can actually still get that feeling that there’s a lot of local participation. The community is involved, they know we’re here now, even if they avoid us on the weekend in the summer,” he adds with a chuckle.

Smith points to the fact that about 75 per cent of everything Masstown Market sells still comes from Nova Scotia producers, even down to the occasional batch of produce from a local family.

Sherry Martell is the executive director of the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce. She says the Masstown Market “is a huge economic driver” in the community of Masstown.

“Coming into Masstown [Market] you feel like you’re entering your own little town,” she says. “It offers our community so many services. But what really makes it stand out is how they are so focused on the local community. They have so many products that are made locally, and they’re really focused on bringing them to their customers.”

That community focus, Martell says, has meant Masstown’s family-owned operation can compete with the big-box chains that have driven so many others out of business.

Smith agrees. Although he says things like the Chamber of Commerce’s health plan have helped.

“One of the biggest advantages small businesses like us can get is from pooling together with other chamber members for things like health care,” he says. “On our own, we wouldn’t be able to offer our employees a plan as good as we get through the chamber network. And that helps us stay competitive,” he says.

Smith says Masstown Market has also sent several employees through chamber-provided training for things like project management, administration, and finance courses.

“The training that is offered through a product or relationship of the chamber network is quite extensive, and we’ve been able to take advantage of that,” he says.

More importantly, however, he says staying connected with the Chamber of Commerce has allowed management at Masstown Market to keep the community connections Jennings spent so long cultivating.

“We certainly rely very heavily on our local chamber for information about the community, especially during situations like Covid-19,” he says.

Sheri Somerville, the CEO of the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, notes the multi-faceted business support offered by the Chamber network.

“As a member of a Chamber of Commerce in Atlantic Canada, you’re connected to a vast network of Chambers with like-minded business owners that extends far beyond your city or town and you gain access to resources and valuable connections that can help you achieve your business goals,” said Somerville. “Chambers also help members build profile with things like announcements, social media support, and exposure through chamber magazines and websites.”

Martell argues there’s no better way to tap into reliable information about what’s happening both locally and across Atlantic Canada’s business community than through the Chamber of Commerce network.

“By creating opportunities for businesses and their staff to be a part of a collective, it helps grow and improve local business,” she adds. “We’ve seen that with members across Atlantic Canada, and we’ve certainly seen it with Masstown Market. And especially in the local community here, we’re all better off for it.”

This story is sponsored by the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce.

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