Imagine, it’s the 1940’s in New Bedford, MA. A handsome Coca Cola delivery man meets a beautiful woman who is working in her father’s grocery store. It’s love at first sight. A courtship begins, they marry in 1945. They move to Martha’s Vineyard where the man had worked a couple of Summers.
In 1947, the couple opens a market, Reliable Market. This story is to celebrate Eddie and Irene Pacheco’s legacy.
When they opened Reliable, there were five other markets on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. However, Reliable was the only “self service” market, which was quite innovative at the time, and clearly was the right direction to go. It was the first of its kind on the Island where customers got their own items to purchase, and it was a hit.
The original Reliable market was where Basics now is, and it was the same “L” shape that it is today. Reliable cornered the meat market on the Island. It was well known for its hamburger and still is the place to get it. Perhaps you’ve seen on a number of Island restaurants, “the Reliable burger.” Since it’s ground fresh, it is a cut above the stuff that sits for days. In 1960, Reliable opened its doors in its current location.
A lot has changed at Reliable. Eddie and Irene’s son, Bob, and wife Donna, and their children, Eddie and Jen, now run the business, products have changed, but so much has stayed the same.
You will still find Bob, who had to learn the business at young age because his father passed away in 1969, cutting meats. Bob is a butcher. He went to school the National School of Meat Cutting in Toledo, something no longer in existence. He is passionate about his work, and his business.
Everyone knows Bob. It’s fun to watch all the customers say hi, and chat with him over the counter. You’ll also find Eddie back there with him. Father and son, side by side, smiling, working together. It’s something special.
Speaking of special. In the short time I was there, I watched Eddie help a woman open her coffee to grind, help another woman pick out the right kind of meat for a recipe, and had a number of people stop to chat with him. Reliable has that small town feel. People know each other, people connect. It’s a community, a part of so many people’s daily lives.
The service the Pacheco family provides, and has for done so for the last 70 years, is unparalleled on the Island. It’s not just the hamburger that keeps people coming back. The store has heart and soul, and great roast beef too.
I am serious. Reliable’s roast beef is what roast beef is supposed to taste like. They make it there, and there are no preservatives in it. You have to eat it that day or the next day. It’s amazing and makes the ultimate sandwich for the beach!
I should also mention Reliable’s sausage. They make that there too. I actually got to go behind the counter and watch it be made. Geordie Meub has been working at Reliable for the past three years, and is kind of the sausage king. There’s even a special blend made for The Ritz Soul Kitchen and BBQ, a spicy garlic sausage, and yes, it’s very good. I was able to get a little bit after it was made. #perks
Back to the family dynamic. So, you’ve got Bob (dad) in the meat department, Donna (mom) in charge of the front of house, and corporate stuff, Jen (daughter) taking care of health and beauty and grocery, and Eddie (son) helping out in the meat department, prepared foods, specialty cheeses, and overall general manager.
I had no idea that there was such a good cheese selection, nor did I know that’s one of Eddie’s favorite things. I had met with him. He has plans to grow that department. You learn something new about someone every day. Our girls are in the same first grade class at Oak Bluffs School, so I feel like Eddie and Erin are friends.
Eddie also would like to grow the prepared foods department. Currently there are sandwiches, roasted chickens, and some deli salads. Over the Winter, there were slim pickings in town for takeaway food options, and Eddie feels like Reliable can possible fill that void in the future.
However, it is easy to grab a beautiful steak or one of their stuffed chicken breasts or pork loin and throw it on the grill for a delicious quick weekday dinner.
There are also a number of things you will only find at Reliable. Did you know that you can get the beloved Eileen Blake’s Pies (Tuesdays and Fridays), Portuguese Muffins that come from New Bedford, a Reliable staple. Eddie swears that these are the best thing ever, and you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I should also mention that you can get fabulous Pain D’Avignon baked goods there too.
For Eddie, being a part of Reliable and the Island community is important. He is proud of the store’s integrity and that it’s a family owned and operated business. The quality of the products they offer, especially the meats. His grandfather’s legacy lives on. He is also proud to offer everyday low prices. In a place where there tends to be a lot of up charges, Reliable works hard to be fair.
This family market is one of the reasons to feel good about shopping local and shopping small. The service, the smiles, the experience – you can only find it at Reliable. With 6 grandchildren, I see Reliable continuing to grow and easily celebrate 100 years.
Imagine if that Coca Cola driver had a different route? Chances are we would not have Reliable in our community.