Whether it’s the crunch of a ruby Red Delicious apple or the sweet scent of a ripe cantaloupe, Blake Bourque knows produce. Bourque has worked for Market Basket over 40 years, most of it making sure customers receive the best fruits and vegetables possible.
“I take care of my customers. I was taught that a long time ago by Ed Hughes,” Bourque said.
When his career began at age 17 in 1971, as a carry out and stocker, things were a lot different. And he’s seen plenty of changes through the years, including a stint into co-managing a couple of locations.
“We trimmed our own lettuce and wrapped it, strawberries too. Now it comes wrapped and we just have to make sure there are no bad ones,” Bourque said. “Produce has always been my cup of tea.”
The hard work has paid definitely made an impression on Dave Dugas, a regular at the Nederland Market Basket.
“He’s a very dedicated worker, he really tends to his business.” Dugas said over a cup of coffee while seated near the doors at Market Basket, saying hello to familiar faces as they came and went.
Dugas’ wife Colita also worked with Bourque and thought quite highly of him, he said.
“It was a family affair then and there would be parties, everyone would go to them and Colita thought he (Blake) was a good dancer,” Dugas said.
Through the years Dugas has seen the effort put into maintaining the produce section.
“I appreciate what he does,” he said. “The world would be a better place if there were more like him.”
There have been some great times during the 40 years spent at the store.
Ed Hughes, one of the founders of Market Basket, once placed a watermelon grown at Hughes’ camp in a produce cooler at the store. After waiting for about a week, Blake decided it was time to do something with the melon. It just sat in the way anyways, Bourque said. So he did what any savy produce manager would do, cut it up and sold it, of course.
“It was the very next day that Mr. Hughes came in looking for the watermelon. I told him what I’d done and he told me that he hoped I had at least made some profit off of it.” Bourque said, laughing heartily while recalling the feeling of nervousness and humour about cutting up his bosses melon.
And just because Bourque spends a lot of time in the produce section doesn’t mean he isn’t well known, quite the contrary.
“I’ve been all over the world and it seems like I always run into someone I know,” including once in Washington state, while riding an elevator in a hotel he was staying at.
Store manager Archie Moore started working for the company about the same time as Bourque, also carrying out groceries for customers and seeing the shelves were stocked.
Moore has a great respect for his co-worker bragging that Bourque knows his department better than almost anyone within the company. Which is a great compliment for a business with over 30 locations.
“It’s really a pleasure having him here. I don’t even have to worry about that part of the store, because I know it’s well taken care of.” Moore said.
Bourque has his own favorite from the shelves of his produce section.
“I love pears, a good ripe A’njou pear.”
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