Pete’s Frootique; The Food Hunter television series; Luckett’s Vineyards; three cookbooks; overseas food tours, public presentations – the list of accomplishments for a grocer from England who now employs 500 people is seemingly endless. As a Boy Scout, Pete Luckett developed an interest in travel and adventure that would serve him well. He started working at 15, and eventually operated a small business. At 25 he sold it and hit the road. “I got out at the right time. It was the last of the era of small British green grocers.” Pete ended up in Texas, but says his grocery background allowed him to immigrate to Canada. In Alberta he operated a tree skidder, driving logs out of the woods, worked nights in a bar and erected real estate signs.
“I had a dream of owning a farm, living off the land and being self-sufficient,” says Pete, explaining his 1981 move to Saint-Antoine, New Brunswick. A year later the farm failed and Pete was down to his last $300. Impressed that the country’s oldest farmers’ market was in Saint John, he obtained a 12-foot bench for $12 a week selling for a local wholesaler. With his top hat, tails, green shoes and green bowtie, a true character was born. It was a quiet market until Pete started shouting to sell his wares. One day his gregarious nature caused a scuffle, but the ensuing news coverage was a stroke of good luck. He talked food on CBC Television’s Midday, becoming known for his farewell tip of his hat and a “toodleedo.” The gig lasted 14 years before he moved to CTV for eight years.
It wasn’t always easy, but you forget the tough times. I built a business one customer at a time. I love being on the front lines talking to people. That’s what gives me joy.
Family members joined him as they expanded to three retail locations as well as selling wholesale. “Saint John was an incredible place to start from nothing. I was accepted by the people and built a business.” After 10 years he sold it to family, moved to Nova Scotia and opened Pete’s Frootique in Bedford. He became an in-demand speaker, making presentations about entrepreneurship. “Not in a million years did I think I’d do that.” His career highlight was hosting a 19-episode Gemini-winning television series called The Food Hunter. “I lived the dream. We traveled the world from Tahiti to Spain to Guatemala.”
Pete lives with his wife Sue on a farm in the Annapolis Valley near his latest venture — Luckett Vineyards. “I never lost that bug to farm.” He describes himself as “pretty grounded,” but still travels the world to speak and lead wine tours. He once raced motorcycles and still loves to ride. And he belongs to a 10-man monthly cooking club. Two of his six children work with him. His five grandchildren, from two to 10, live in England.
Pete never encountered obstacles although he found the bureaucracy frustrating. “It wasn’t always easy, but you forget the tough times. I built a business one customer at a time. I love being on the front lines talking to people. That’s what gives me joy.”