From sweet melons, to white peaches, pluots and plums, the Hingham Fruit Center Marketplace offers one of the largest selections of produce on the South Shore, and the business has been doing it for decades.
The family-owned Fruit Center turned 40 years-old this year but not much has changed about the ways they go about selling their fruits and vegetable.
Everyday Fruit Center employees visit the produce exchange markets in Chelsea and Everett in the early morning, hand selecting the items they want, cleaning them and placing them on the shelf that same day.
“One thing I think customers don’t quite understand, is how quick we actually get the products from the market to the stands,” Hingham store Manager Mark Mignosa said. “There is no warehouse here. There is no distribution center within our company. It goes from the wholesaler to our truck, right to the store and right on our stand within hours.”
At the produce exchange, Produce Manager Joseph Sullivan said buyers sift through boxes of fruits and vegetables, looking for bumps and bruises and tasting the products so they only bring back the best for their shelves.
“You taste, you eat, you touch and you dig through the boxes,” Sullivan said. “A lot of these larger companies operate with a buyer and an office, placing phone calls to shippers and they never even see the product or taste it. We have the advantage of having a buyer go down to market everyday. We refuse things all the time.”
Fruit Center General Manager and buyer Steve DiGuisto has built strong relationships with produce sellers over the past 40 years.
“He’s built relationships with all these business owners and salesman so they can have an honest conversation about when things are arriving, what to look at, what to stay away from, pricing, availability,” Sullivan said. “So, already going into it, he has the network all set up.”
Sullivan said the process of keeping fruits and vegetables fresh takes a lot of planning.
“Before we even do the buy, we have to know what we’re looking for,” Sullivan said. “Each night, we do an inventory in the store of everything we got. We need to know our quantities. What we want to do is get it in and get it out as quickly as we can.”
The whole process results in one of nicest looking fruits and vegetable aisles on the South Shore. In Hingham, there’s a towering wall of apples, oranges, lemons and grapefruits. Across from the fruit wall, there are a variety of summer fruits in baskets. In the vegetable aisles, there’s hand- trimmed greens and herbs that are constantly hosed down with water to keep fresh.
The Fruit Center’s produce employees constantly rotate the products putting the ripest items on the top and disposing any items that are no longer fresh.
“We have guys working the aisles from 5:30 in the morning to 9 at night just working the stands,” Sullivan said.
The owners, the Mignosa family, have over 100 years of experience in the produce business.
The family has been selling produce since the late 19th century when Sicilian immigrant Carmelo Mignosa ran Mignosa's Fruit Stand on West Broadway Street in South Boston back in 1889.
Don Mignosa, one of Carmelo's 12 children, went on to open the very first Fruit Center Markeplace in Weymouth in 1973. He later opened the Hingham store in 1976, which is now managed by his son Mark, and the Milton location in 1981, managed by his other son Michael.
“Produce has been in our family for a very long time,” Mark Mignosa said. “My dad opened the first Fruit Center in Weymouth 40 years ago, and we’ve been doing business the same way since then.”
The Mignosa’s stores also have grocery aisles, a fish market, gourmet and dairy section, deli, salad bar and olive bar but Mark says the produce section is still “the cornerstone” of the store.
“It all started with the produce, the freshness and that whole feel,” Mignosa said.
The store is currently selling local lettuces, blueberries, corn and peppers along with a variety of other summer selections.
Watch the VIDEO about the Fruit Center's summer produce.