CHICOPEE — Fruit Fair Supermarket was recognized as one of the Massachusetts Sustainable Businesses of the Year.

Each year the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts seeks to recognize and celebrate the work of local businesses that embody the mission of building strong economies that are local, green and fair.

Businesses can nominate themselves or are nominated by friends and members of the public to receive an award in a certain category in recognition of their exemplary work to the community, sustainable practices within their business and dedication to a fair and inclusive workplace.

Fruit Fair provides fresh, high-quality food to their community and eliminate food insecurity for the area and surrounding underserved communities.

Owners Sam and Jaret Newell bought the supermarket in 2019 but the name has been around a lot longer than that.

Fruit Fair Supermarket is Chicopee’s oldest grocery store and has been around since 1936. It was founded as a small farmstand, offering local produce grown by the owner but slowly expanded to the store it is today.

“A lot of people who are in the area, they have grown up with our store. They have always shopped at our store for generations. During COVID especially, when everything was shut down and they didn’t have a way to get food, they were really appreciative that we brought them to the store and once they were done shopping we brought them back,” Sam Newell said.

Sam and Jaret Newell aim to provide the easiest and most affordable access to fresh foods, while sourcing products and produce locally.

Fruit Fair also introduced new offerings to the public, including a daily hot buffet filled with fresh local cuisines that are homemade or outsourced.

“We have been trying to do things a little differently. We buy a lot from local farms, we changed out a lot of refrigeration to low [global warming potential], we are doing a greenhouse on top of our roof in order to grow our own vegetables and greens,” Sam Newell said.

The rooftop greenhouse is set to be ready by June.

Sam Newell added that they will start the seeding process down in their basement in March so that it is ready to go when the greenhouse is complete.
Sam Newell also discussed addressing the problem with food access within Chicopee.

“During COVID when the public transportation wasn’t really in effect, we started doing shuttle services for people. Whenever something like that happens, we have always risen to that occasion, make it cleaner for the environment, reduce food miles, buy from local farm stands so it’s more sustainable,” she said.

While winning the award felt great, according to Sam Newell, she added that it isn’t the reason the Newells do what they do for the community.

“I wasn’t expecting it. We were just like ‘this needs to be done and this will serve this many low income areas or people or this many households,’ we just have been in a way number driven but not profit driven. We weren’t really looking for any awards or thinking about that but once we learned about it we felt really good about it,” she said.

Fruit Fair’s community possesses strong ties to over 60 food vendors throughout Western Mass., which helps keep a lot of them in business, according to Sam Newell.

She said, “We are doing a lot of trades with the local farms which contributes to the viability of local farms. If they don’t have any outlets, they can’t sell anywhere then they wouldn’t be farming. A lot of local farms have been bought up and changed over to residential and commercial zones and we have lost a lot of farmland over the years in this area so we need to sustain our farms and the only way to do that is to keep the farms farming and the only way to do that is to sell all the stuff they do make.”

Continuing Fruit Fair’s distinguished role in the community remains a central objective, Sam Newell explained.

She said, “We obviously carry the regular items but also, we have a lot of customer specific items. We have a lot of Polish food, we have a lot of Portuguese food, we have a lot of Spanish food from different Spanish countries that you can only find in a couple stores in the area. For them to get access to their culturally relevant food, that was a big deal to them.”

This year’s annual Massachusetts Sustainable Business of the Year celebration will take place virtually on Feb. 15 to honor all the awardees.

Sam Newell added that readers can check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Fruitfair daily for updates and news.