Dave’s Fresh Marketplace differentiates itself by its local roots and by providing customers with a high-quality produce experience. It is the largest locally owned and operated independent grocer in Rhode Island, with 10 locations in six communities. “We follow our founder’s long-held belief that people want the freshest, highest quality produce coupled with terrific customer service,” says Charley DiMascio, produce buyer.
Dave Cesario began Dave’s in 1969 and is still the principal owner. “He worked for many years as a young boy in a local produce market called Vic’s Fruit stand,” says DiMascio. “As an adult, he went to work for a local manufacturing company but returned to Vic’s when he realized he missed the vibrant, bustling Providence produce market. Later on, he worked as a salesman at the local Magnavox store to earn more money where he saved his commissions and, after 18 months bought the truck that began it all — selling tomatoes and miscellaneous fruits and vegetables on a street corner in Warwick, RI.”
With the help of friends and family, Cesario put up a shack on that same street corner using donated boards, windows and a stove to make it through the winter. “The owner of the property then worked with him to put up a 30- by 40-foot two-car garage and that’s where Dave’s Fruitland (now Dave’s Fresh Marketplace) began,” says DiMascio. “Now, Bill Hogan who started with Dave at 16 years of age is leading the charge to expand and develop the Dave’s Fresh Marketplace brand.”
OFFERING THE BEST TO CUSTOMERS
Over the past 54 years, Dave’s has developed and maintained a strong history of providing high-quality produce. “Our customers, new and old, know we pride ourselves on choosing and selling the best product offered each season,” says DiMascio. “We aim to provide the best quality, at a fair and competitive price.”
DiMascio notes Dave’s primary customer base encompasses knowledgeable, health-conscious and educated individuals. “These folks demand fresh quality products and many enjoy cooking and preparing fresh meals at home,” he says.
MERCHANDISED FOR QUALITY
With an open and bright produce department, the store combines a plethora of merchandising techniques to showcase its fresh quality and abundant displays. “We use tables, seasonal bins, refrigerated tables, point of sale displays for promotions, shippers and configurable shelving that can be changed each week or season,” says DiMascio.
More than 60% of the produce department is refrigerated with approximately 36 feet dedicated to a greens wall (wet rack) and another 28 feet of produce behind environmentally efficient glass doors including loose local mushroom varieties, bagged salads and cut veggies.
“We have seen strong sales with varieties of mangos that are available 52 weeks of the year,” says DiMascio. “This is creeping in as a top 10 produce item. Avocados are also an item now available year-round that consistently lands in our No. 3 spot of our top 10 produce items.”
When seasons change and new items emerge, the store enjoys offering them relates DiMascio. “Our customer base loves new produce,” he says. “A few months ago, we had purple cauliflower enjoying some new buyers. Before that, we had Santa Claus Melons when they were available. Snacking tomatoes are consistent weekly favorites.”
Produce is advertised weekly during the store’s weekly special’s circulars, and featured in its two-day midweek sales flyer.
The company puts great emphasis on interaction with customers in the store and the value of its employees. “We always say our employees are hands down the best,” says DiMascio. “They are taught customer service skills first, then produce skills. We encourage engagement with customers to help answer questions, find new items and to overall be friendly.”
Dave’s hands-on produce team includes two merchandisers who are in the stores every day in different locations.
“There are scheduled seasonal changes with the weather and holidays, but our produce team takes their departments very seriously and are consistently moving items to create visually pleasing display and encourage incremental sales,” he says.
Given the quality orientation of the stores, DiMascio takes sourcing personally. “I visit the Boston market twice a week to see, smell and taste the new lots of produce coming in — whether it be from New Hampshire or New Mexico,” he says.
Quality, appearance and taste play prime roles in sourcing for Dave’s. “We consistently ask ‘What will our customers want?,’” says DiMascio.
Some of the company’s trusted suppliers on the New England Produce Center include Strock, M & J Produce, D’Arrigo, Community-Suffolk, Mahera’s, Goldbell, Coosemans, Wilson Farms, 4M Fruit, Travers Fruit and John Cerasuolo.
“Every wholesale company has their strengths and relationships with farmers or importers,” says DiMascio. “Working with all of them, you develop a relationship where they understand our standards and we respect their selections.”
The store also relies on some local wholesalers to service its needs, using Tourtellot in Warwick, RI; Shapiro in Everett, MA; and Bozzuto’s in Cheshire, CT. “They provide ready solutions to our daily sales,” says DiMascio.
Dave’s Fresh Marketplace
1000 Division St., Suite 20, East Greenwich, RI 02818
Hours: Monday through Saturday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.