Brothers Marketplace

Originally printed in the December 2019 issue of Produce Business.

This small-format concept marries the age-old corner grocery store with a modern passion for seasonal eating and artisan foods.

In 2014, Roche Bros. Supermarkets launched its Brothers Marketplace format as a next-generation neighborhood fresh market, offering a new experience to customers in the greater Boston area.

“We wanted to provide a smaller-footprint option for us to diversify our real estate strategy and serve more communities,” says Tom Murray, director of produce for Wellesley Hills, MA-based Roche Bros.

Murray explains the motivation for Brothers Marketplace was to provide a neighborhood market featuring handpicked selections of fresh foods, local products, deliciously prepared meals and grocery essentials. “The concept pays tribute to the original vision of Pat and Bud Roche, who founded Roche Bros. in 1952,” he says. “We’re excited to keep alive their focus on quality and community, in a nostalgic way, with a contemporary twist.”

Roche Bros., of which Brothers Marketplace is a part, is now owned and operated by brothers Rick and Ed Roche, sons of Pat Roche. “There are now five Brothers Marketplace locations including Duxbury, Medfield, Waltham and Weston, Massachusetts,” says Murray. “Our fifth just opened in Cambridge’s Kendall Square in November.”

Drawing Customers In

Brothers Marketplace carries a broad selection of local, seasonal and unique items alongside a full selection of grocery essentials and thus offers a little something for everyone. “The compact format of the store and the curated selection is especially appealing to urban residents who may be shopping on foot, and older customers who find it an easy store to shop,” says Murray. “Our selection also resonates well with customers looking to buy fresh food for their next meal or discover something new in our easy-to-browse environment.”

The stores range in size from 8,500 to 20,000 square feet, according to Murray, but all put high emphasis on produce. “As a focal point from the entrance and a key driver for visits, fresh produce sets the theme/atmosphere for the store,” says Murray. “And we emphasize local whenever available.”

Produce’s percent contribution to overall sales in the store ranges from 18% to 20% and the stores handle several hundred SKU’s of produce items. “Providing our customers with a high-quality assortment of fresh produce is always our top objective,” says Murray. “We also look to expand their horizons with great variety and unique items, and to offer a broad selection of local and organic options.”

Fresh And Focused

The stores feature a clean, fresh seasonal look, with a focus on small local or seasonal displays tastefully merchandised throughout the department. The department layouts change with the seasons, from the summer fruits and local offerings to local apples, squashes and pumpkins in autumn.

Produce is abundantly merchandised on wet racks, high-end moveable bins, harvest tables, and drop displays. “We really focus on showcasing the product quality,” says Murray. “The key customer take-away should be fresh, with strong local, organic and variety messages.”

Catering to neighborhood demographics drives some department focus. “Our fresh greens wall (wet rack) is a dramatic focal point in each of the stores,” notes Murray. “In our newest store in Duxbury, we’ve emphasized our bulk variety tomatoes and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables as well. Some of our stores have added fresh orange juice and smoothies.”

Sourcing Relationships

The company buys daily and delivers daily from the New England Produce Center, sourcing about 95% of its produce there. “You get to pick and choose what you want each day,” says Murray.

Roche Bros. has sourced through the New England Produce market for 67 years. “Our buyers have a great rapport with all of the market purveyors, and they know our expectations,” says Murray. “They do a great job getting the quality that we expect.”

The store also deals with many local farmers on a seasonal basis. “But, local is tough during New England winters,” says Murray. “Our local program is a primary focus during the summer and fall seasons, though we do have some local greenhouse-based offerings year-round.”

Unique Promotion

Brothers Marketplace does not follow the usual supermarket advertising formats. “We have a two-week ad that features a few seasonal items,” says Murray. “The ad also features a local purveyor and their products in all departments. And, we sample whenever possible. Sampling always engages customers and drives additional sales.”

The stores further harness a great partnership with Edible Boston magazine, providing hands-on interactive demos for customers to help them learn how to cook and eat seasonally with an emphasis on local produce. “This series is especially engaging, and when we run these events we watch in real time as the featured products move off the shelf,” says Murray. “Our most successful of the series to-date has been DIY vinaigrettes, highlighting everything from salad greens and celery to shallots and garlic. Several other of the monthly events we’ve run in this series include heirloom tomato tasting, watermelon three-ways (in a savory salad, pickled and in agua fresca), easy fruit crisps and crumbles, and tasting ‘decorative’ winter squash.”

In smaller-format stores, knowledgeable staff is especially crucial. The store focuses on hiring associates who are not just hard- working but also have a passion for food. “Our collaborative environment and small scale means the team can learn a great deal about our offerings and how to use them while on the job,” says Murray. “Associates all receive training that briefs them on our customer preferences and brand standards, as well as safe food-handling practices. And we always encourage our associates to join in educational events.”

Brothers Marketplace
46 Depot Street
Monday to Saturday 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

446 Main Street
Monday to Saturday 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

1 Moody Street
Monday to Saturday 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

41 Center Street
Monday to Saturday 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.

1 Broadway, Kendall Square
(Opened November 2019)