Conversations with Bruce

I’m not sure how I came to first know Bruce MacNaughton, but then again it’s hard to live on Prince Edward Island and not know Bruce. Among other things he has founded the erstwhile Perfect Cup Café in Charlottetown (where Leonhard’s is now), the erstwhile Piece a Cake restaurant (above the PEI Company Store), the erstwhile Marketplace (in the former Woolworth’s) and, most notably, the (very much alive) Prince Edward Island Preserve Company in New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island.

Bruce’s business sensibility is one I greatly admire: when Bruce says he’s “not in business to make money,” it’s more than a throw-away line, it’s at the core of how he operates (sometimes to his detriment, as the string of erstwhiles demonstrates…).

A few weeks ago Bruce suggested we have coffee; he wrote “I would like to discuss what we might do; could do, shouldn’t do online.”

And so we met on a chilly Tuesday morning at Casa Mia and Bruce bought me an espresso and we talked about, well, almost everything but the “online” thing. Okay, that’s not completely true: we did touch briefly on his new website, and what he might do with 11,000 email addresses he’s collected over the years but never emailed to, and other onlinely things. But we also talked a lot about sugar content and customer service, and customs regulations.

What emerged from our conversation was the notion visiting the Preserve Company in New Glasgow is, for many people, a singular experience, and Bruce’s interest in finding out whether it’s possible to build on that experience after the fact.  Not (necessarily) to sell stuff, but for a host of other reasons, most of them intangible.

One of the things I admire about Bruce is that he is transparent and honest about doing business: if you have a bad experience at Bruce’s place, and email him, it’s likely that a few hours later Bruce will have emailed you back, apologized, and turned a bad experience into a surprising one.

Extending from this notion, and a strong desire on my part to avoid any hint of “developing a social media marketing plan,” I suggested to Bruce that, at least to begin, we keep the conversation going. But in public.

And so this Tuesday morning we met again at Casa Mia, but this time with a video camera. I pressed “record” and we talked. We’ll do it again next Tuesday.


Anonymous1's picture
Anonymous1 on January 21, 2010 - 12:28 Permalink

Bruce is a very passionate individual and that fact that he greats most if not all customers as they arrive to the PEI Preserve company shows this. He has tried to bring that to the Charlottetown but unfortunally it has not taken off. One note to you story is that Bruce did not start “The Marketplace” it was orginally opened by Tim Banks and Bruce purchased it a few years later.