Pete Luckett spent the first three hours of Friday signing the stacks of paper that would sell his iconic Pete's Fine Foods business to Sobeys Inc.

After a barrage of media interest, he sat down with CBC News to reflect on the road that led him from a little fruit-and-veg stall in England to Pete's Frootique, a Nova Scotia institution.

Luckett, 62, started selling produce as a teenager at Victoria Market in Nottingham, England. Fighting for customers with all the other produce stalls, he soon realized he needed to stand out if he wanted to stay in business.

"Pat Briton, my old boss, was my mentor, my hero, my guidance counsellor. He was like a brother to me, and he was my boss," Luckett says.

"He was the green grocer of all green grocers and he taught me a lot of things. But I think more than anything, he taught me how to engage and interact with a customer."

In short, he learned how to make people want to give him their money. Anyone who's seen Luckett in action can vouch for his ability to make strangers feel like old friends as he guides them to the cash register.

Briton taught him "the chat, the charm, the moves — all the old lines. And the old lines still work the best," Luckett says with a grin.

Pete Luckett

Pete Luckett learned his charm from Pat Briton, a veteran of the Victoria Market in England. (

He opened his first Pete's Frootique in England in 1975. But he got restless four years later and travelled the world. He stopped at a farm in St. Antoine, N.B.

He continued selling produce, but it was a far cry from the intensity of Victoria Market.

"It's a different world, but I still apply a lot of the old techniques, from merchandising to colour separation, the excitement, the freshness. This is all stuff I learned in the old days on the markets of England."

He moved to Saint John and opened a new fruit-and-veg stall. He soon expanded to providing produce for local restaurants.

He landed a television column on CBC, and later CTV, unleashing his well-honed charm onto a wider audience with his trademark "toodledo."

On that first live hit, he meant to say "toodle-oo," the usual English expression for goodbye, but slipped up and said "toodledo." 

The TV producers knew genius when they saw it — even if it was accidental — and urged him to stick with "toodledo." It was good advice.

Fruit expert Pete Luckett on Christmas oranges2:01

That familiar restlessness so common among entrepreneurs returned. He moved again, this time to Nova Scotia. He opened the Bedford Pete's Frootique in 1992. He added the downtown Halifax store in 2004.

He was catching the start of a rising wave that turned eating local from a fringe belief to mainstream practice.

He also played a leading role in convincing the Nova Scotia government to lift its ban on Sunday shopping. He skirted the ban by dividing his store into smaller sections that were each individually allowed to open. 

In the late 2000s, he bought a farm in Nova Scotia's Gaspereau Valley. At first, he planned to grow produce to sell at the store, but he was soon swept up in another dream: Luckett's Vineyard. 

Luckett's Vineyard.

Pete Luckett will spend more of his time building the Luckett's Vineyard business. (CBC)

He stepped back from daily operations at the grocery stores as he built the new business from 2010 onward.

He installed an old British phone box in the vineyard and invited guests to make a free phone call to anywhere in North America. Many have done so, and shared the photo to prove it, spreading the Luckett name a little further each time. 

He said the big sale to Sobeys feels "fantastic," and he's looking forward to pouring himself into the vineyard.

"This excites me. I love building a business from the ground up, and the wine industry is very, very exciting," he says. 

You get the feeling that rather than retiring, Pete Luckett is just getting started. 

Pete Luckett's old red phone box soon became an iconic image of Nova Scotia.

Pete Luckett installed an old British phone box in the middle of his vineyards. It quickly became a much-photographed spot. (CBC)