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Beloved Watertown Produce Market Closes After A Century Of Bringing People Together

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Russo's, a produce market in Watertown, Mass., for more than 100 years, is closing this fall, and that means shoppers are about to lose a favorite store and a dear and trusted friend.

SHERYL JULIAN: The town's bereft.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Sheryl Julian is a former Boston Globe food editor. She has been shopping at Russo's since the late '70's, when the store was a tiny little farm stand. As Russo's grew, it became known for its wide array of extraordinary, affordable produce, an expansive garden center full of flowers in the spring and Christmas trees in the winter. And then, there's the ever-present classical music.

JULIAN: If you felt bad when you went into Russo's you came out feeling great.

SHAPIRO: On an average day, the store is filled with families and longtime customers, standing shoulder to shoulder, swapping stories and recipes as they wait to peruse a shelf. And in the middle of it all, smiling and greeting everyone by name, is that friend we mentioned, Tony Russo. He's been a fixture at the store started by his grandfather for nearly 70 years. And the store is closing because Tony Russo is retiring.

JULIAN: I think that the outpouring from the community of love and devotion and real sadness is probably a bit of a surprise to him. He probably had no idea what he had actually created in the store beyond beautiful fruits and vegetables.

KELLY: Tony Russo's customers are going to miss things like Tony's tips, short videos he started making during the pandemic, highlighting the stories behind the vast array of food and plants.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TONY RUSSO: You know, we understand there's no bucatini in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Laughter).

RUSSO: However, we have plenty.

These are old-fashioned grown mushrooms from China. We get them in every week.

The cider comes from the Lord (ph) family, and we've been buying apples and cider from the Lord family since the 1940s.

SHAPIRO: Tony's customers will no doubt miss him, but they'll be happy to see him getting some well-deserved rest. His days typically last from 3:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

JULIAN: I know he's not going to slow down because he has an enormous amount of energy and curiosity.

KELLY: In fact, Tony still has a long to-do list. He told his daughter on her podcast last October that if he ever did retire, he would like to buy a nice Ferrari, go to Italy, learn to speak Italian and cross the Atlantic in a sailboat. Bon voyage, Mr. Russo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.