New London - Jacques Fruit Store, a staple on Broad Street for four decades, may be under new management, but owner Bruno Matricciano has retained the same philosophy of offering quality products and top-notch service.
Matricciano, who took over the store last June from longtime owner Jacques Adcock after the death of Jacques' brother and partner Philip, said he works seven days a week to ensure that his customers get the best fruits, vegetables and flowering plants around.
"Jacques has not been known for the lowest prices," Matricciano said. "We are known for quality. As I say in my brochures, 'Only the Best for over 40 Years.'"
Jacques Adcock, a native of Belgium, opened his local fruit stand in 1971. And Matricciano, who learned the business from Jacques last spring before officially acquiring it in June, said he still gets advice from Jacques.
"Everything I learned, I learned from Jacques," he said.
But it is largely his show now, and he and wife Monica Villegas - a physician at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital - have started to experiment with the mix of products, adding local honey and jams, specialty soaps, kettle corn from Bureau's Sugar House in Old Lyme and Crystal Journey candles from Essex. Matricciano also talks about someday including outdoor tables while serving cappuccino, espresso and other hot and cold drinks.
For now, though, he is concentrating on bringing in the best of flowering plants, including hanging baskets. Flowers are virtually his entire business this time of the year and account for about 70 percent of sales throughout the season, which runs from early spring through Christmas.
"Flowers are what I'm known for," Matricciano said. "With flowers, you really get what you pay for."
By Memorial Day, fresh local fruits and vegetables begin to pour in, and from July through Labor Day, as flower buying dies down, this represents the majority of his business.
"We're definitely making a go of it," Matricciano said. "I'm trying to get as much local stuff as I can."
Matricciano said he works largely with local farms and greenhouses, and most of what he brings in is hand picked. Whatever he can't get locally, such as tropical fruits, Matricciano picks up in Hartford, leaving his Waterford home at 3 a.m. to get the best quality available.
Longtime customers are grateful that Jacques is still offering local residents a wide range of edible and floral choices, he said.
"New London needs this place," he added.
Matricciano's largely one-man operation - with a couple of part-time employees and his wife helping out - is all-consuming this time of the year, and he lost 30 pounds last season trying to keep up. He understands now why the previous owners worked with a two-man team, Matricciano said, admitting there has been a learning curve and saying that he hopes people give him a chance to offer an even better selection this year.
"It's more consuming than people think," Matricciano said. "When you have your own business, it becomes a part of you."