“Mater Man.” That’s “Tomato Man” pronounced country-style. It’s written on his feed cap, in needlepoint done by his wife. He sells tomatoes and other produce at a farmer’s market where we loved to shop.
And, as you might guess, he grows tomatoes. Some are big and red and lovely. Others are heirlooms, like Cherokee Purple. They may not be as lovely, but I think they’re even more delicious. We bought a case whenever we shopped at the market.
Mater Man also sells other produce. He grows some of it. He buys other stuff from farmers he knows. There’s butterbeans and squash and okra. There’s watermelon and there’s cantaloupe. Well, that is, there are all those things if they’re good. If the butterbeans aren’t good there are no butterbeans at Mater Man’s stand.
The prices aren’t the lowest at the market, but they’re fair. And you know what you buy from Mater Man will be top quality.
Mater Man Rule Nr 1: People will keep coming back if you have high standards and stick to them.
Mater Man’s produce is so good, and his standards are so high, that you can use him as a gauge of what’s coming into season or what’s going out. And he’s such an honest cuss that he’ll tell you if someone else in the market has something better than his.
Mater Man Rule Nr 2: The best thing you can do is whatever’s best for your customers. They remember.
There are plenty of reasons to shop at Mater Man’s stand, but we have a special one. It goes back to when we had just moved to Charlotte.
Where we lived before, there was an ATM at the farmer’s market. If you ran out of cash, you could just get more. Not in Charlotte.
My wife found herself wanting more produce than we had cash. She asked Mater Man if he’d take a check, even though it had an out-of-town address. He said, “Sure. Write the check for as much as you need to keep shopping.”
Mater Man cashed my wife’s out-of-town check for more than the amount of purchase. He never asked for ID. He just trusted us. Which is a big reason why we always shop at his stall.
Mater Man Rule Nr 3: Trust pays dividends.
Mater Man Rule Nr. 4: If you’re in business you can concentrate on profit or you can concentrate on what makes your customers smile. There’s less stress and probably more profit if you maximize the smiles.