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@Work: Fruit Bowl

Feb. 24, 2005 – The space is small and quaint. The decor is anything that's in season; exotic as a buddha's hand, or ordinary as an Idaho potato. The customer service is what you would expect of any neighborhood grocery that's been in business for 30 years, warm and friendly. If you're wondering how to work lemon grass into a recipe, or if you're in a conundrum over a kumquat, help is just a question away. If you're shopping to fill a child's lunch box, planning a lovely dinner, or just looking for healthy snacks to fill your fridge, The Fruit Bowl is the place to go.
One room, perhaps slightly bigger than your living room, is packed with the largest variety of fresh and organic produce on the island. For the past 30 years, it's taken up a small space in Wheatley Center. But the story of The Fruit Bowl really begins 32 years ago in Tutu. That's when Marty Goldberg and a partner opened a store called the Top Banana. "He was the first to bring in stateside milk," says Dave Goldberg, Marty's son. "And berries. People didn't know what they were."
After a few years, Marty struck out on his own and opened The Fruit Bowl. Dave Goldberg and James Clark manage the store. Their work is roughly split so Clark does the produce and Goldberg does dry goods, but "we both have our hands full," says Clark.
"Since day one, we've offered fresh fruits and vegetables of great quality at a fair price," Dave says.
The store started out small, then the space doubled 19 years ago. Even though it's still a tight fit, the management is working under the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" philosophy.
"To try to make better in another location doesn't make sense," says Clark. Even though it might be bigger, "it wouldn't be the same."
The inventory started out small as well. In the early years, there wasn't much in the way of dairy and dry goods, but basic items have always been on hand.
"Over time as the store matured, and as people asked for things, we've added more into the lineup," says Clark.
In the last five years, customers have noticed more in the way of soy products, and organic milk and cheeses. If you're searching for something, look high and look low – chances are it's on the shelf somewhere.
"People assume because we're small we're a specialty store, which would entail higher prices," says Goldberg "That's not the case."
While the name of the produce game is exotics, the dry goods section has whatever is hot at the moment. "We try different things, and whatever sells better, we'll stick with them," says Clark.
One of the challenges of running a produce store on an island is shipping. Even though there are Caribbean islands with farming industries, it's difficult to find a consistent way of getting the produce from them. As a result, most of what is on Fruit Bowl's shelves comes from the U.S.
The store employs about 25 people. Janice Connor, the checker has been there 23 years. "She can take the edge off anybody's bad day," says Clark. Laurel Clarke just retired after 22 years, and Susie Joseph is still going strong after 16 years.
"They all remember me as a little kid running around here," says Dave. "They're all wonderful and personable."
The Fruit Bowl is open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

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