image c/o Taste of Nova Scotia
Pete Luckett grew up in Nottingham, but he's a household name here in Nova Scotia. He made his way to Canada after selling the business he started as a young man to travel the world in search of "fame and fortune." He ended up in Saint John, broke, but managed to scrape together enough money to open the first Pete’s Frootique this side of the pond in 1982. Stores in Bedford and Halifax followed in 1992 and 2004, respectively. Pete's Frootique was eventually renamed Pete’s Fine Foods, and retail and wholesale distribution was sold to Sobeys in the fall of 2015. Pete opened Luckett Vineyards in 2011 after purchasing a beautiful piece of land in Gaspereau Valley in 2000 and planting some experimental grapevines in 2003. Today, the winery produces some 13,000 cases of wine per year. Pete has five daughters, one son, five grandkids and a "luvly wife, Sue. who puts up with his craziness!" We're so thankful to have Pete start us off with the first interview of 2018.
1. How did you get started in business?
Starting my business was a gradual process. I left school at 15-years-old and while I was working for my boss, I started my own gig selling fruit and veg at various open air markets around Nottingham. I did this on my two days off every week. By the time I was 20, I'd opened my first full-time market stall, Pete’s Frootique, in Victoria market, city centre, Nottingham. Years later, in 1982, I opened my first Canadian version in Saint John City Market with my last $300. 1992 was a move to Nova Scotia where I opened the tiny Bedford store in Sunnyside Mall.
2. What is your morning routine?
In the old days, it was a 5am start every day preparing my stall/shop for a busy day coming up. Today, my life is certainly very different running a winery. No real routine, just sorting out business every day during the summer season (a giant commitment and still starting early!). Because the winery is closed in the winter these days, I usually head off on an adventure somewhere. This year, I’m off to Tasmania and New Zealand.
3. What is your favourite way to spend a Saturday?
Hard to answer. I have always worked weekends as they are the busiest days of the week for selling anything. I did manage somehow to have a motorcycle racing career during the 80’s and 90’s while still running the Frootiques 85 hours a week. I still don’t know how I did it?
4. What's a goal you're working towards right now?
I always have projects that I’m working on. There is no end goal as every day produces new opportunities and challenges. The winery is presently in a major renovation makeover right now. The 3rd one since we opened in 2011. The pressure is on to be ready for May opening.
5. Who inspires you and why?
I always look for inspiration. It comes in many forms... From other people in business, from ideas that I see when I’m travelling, from my daughter Geena who works with me at the winery bringing new age ideas to the old fart Dad!
6. When was the last time you failed spectacularly at something?
Failure is a part of every entrepreneur's life. It never goes away. When people say to me, “Pete, whatever you put your hand to, it turns to gold!”... Boy, if they only knew the behind-the-scenes story. Perhaps the biggest one of recent, was the decision to close the Wolfville Pete's Fine Foods in 2012. It broke my heart... and my pocket book. It was a big misreading of the demographic in the Valley. We really thought that another smaller, yet duplicate of Bedford and Dresden Row would be a home run for Wolfville. How wrong! The store never made a penny in three years!
7. What's the best advice you've ever received?
From my old boss when I was 16, Pat Britton. He taught me to always look at your business through the eyes of your customer. Although it sounds obvious, it’s easy to get carried away with all of the details and complications of running a retail operation and sometimes forget about the customer!
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