Eric Jennings

Class of ‘58
Distinguished Alumnus Award 2015

What began as a means to sell his fresh produce in his home community has grown to be a venture more successful than Eric Jennings could have imagined. In 1969, Eric founded the Masstown Market, now one of Nova Scotia’s most well-known shopping destinations - and hasn’t looked back.

When Eric Jennings graduated from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in 1958, he left his home community of Masstown, Nova Scotia, for employment opportunities in the Annapolis Valley. However, he knew that what he truly wanted to do was farm, and where he truly wanted to do it was at home. And so in 1965, he and his wife Priscilla packed up their things and headed back to Masstown, where they began to grow produce and sell it to their neighbours.

Eric noticed there was a lack of fresh goods in the West Colchester area, and felt that he could do something to fill the gap. In 1969, he opened a roadside produce stand just minutes down the road from his home. Affectionately known as “the fruitstand” by locals, the Masstown Market was born.

Eric began selling his own produce as well as that of other local farmers, including apples from the Annapolis Valley. In 1973, due to growing demand, Eric added a piece to the original building and started selling home-baked goods from local kitchens. And the growth hasn’t stopped.

As Eric sought out ways to attract new customers and further satisfy existing ones, expansions to the Market took place roughly every three years. The operation is now home to a grocery store, two restaurants, deli, bakery, ice cream counter, gift shop, garden centre, fish market, lighthouse complete with Bay of Fundy interpretive displays, and Nova Scotia Liquor Commission outlet, all on the same 9.5-acre property. Across the road can be found a corn maze and playground, a welcome centre that can also be rented out for events, a gas station, and a Tim Hortons Express. Combined, the two properties encompass roughly 55 acres and handle well over a million transactions every year. All departments collectively employ over 150 people in the summer months, and 120 during the winter.

Both the Masstown Market and Eric himself have been recognized by several organizations for their success over the years, including TripAdvisor, the Truro & Colchester Chamber of Commerce and the Central Nova Tourist Association. In fact, the Market has won 12 awards from the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers and this past year was inducted into its Hall of Fame.

Although Eric is technically retired, he can still be found at the Market most days working alongside his two sons, Laurie and Wade, who respectively oversee the management and operational sides of the business. The Masstown Market is truly a family business – Laurie’s wife, Lisa, is also heavily involved, and several of Eric’s grandchildren as well as extended family members work or have worked there.

A good many things at the Masstown Market have changed since 1969. However, the things that haven’t changed are perhaps more important. When Eric founded his business, he sought to provide three things: good quality produce, friendly service, and reasonable prices. These three things have remained ever-present within the business and have proven to be the keys to his success; these, and supporting the people who supported him. Eric has always made an effort to support his local community in any way he could, whether it be through purchasing product from local farmers or hiring local contractors for one of the Market’s many expansions.

Eric’s overwhelming dedication to his family business, his community and local agriculture as well as his undeniable success make him a very deserving recipient of the Faculty of Agriculture’s Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2015.