Detail of the Fratus-Perry family memorial. [2012, Dunlap]
Marion Agostinho “Bert” Perry (1901-1977). Frank Vasello has made Relish a town institution since its opening in 2001. But folks with long-term memories will be excused for thinking of 93 Commercial Street as Perry’s Market, since the grocery store operated by Bert Perry from the 1910s through the 1960s was also an institution.
Bert was the child of Amelia (Hill) Perry (1876-1903) and Manuel Augustine Perry (1867-1915), a fisherman who had immigrated to the United States from São Miguel in the Azores. Bert’s uncle was Capt. Marion Augustine “Bertie” Perry, the skipper of the schooner Rose Dorothea, winner of the Lipton Cup in 1907, which was immortalized with a half-scale model in the Provincetown Public Library. (The builder of the model, Francis A. “Flyer” Santos, lived across the street from Perry’s Market, in what had been Captain Perry’s house.)
Of necessity, Josephine Del Deo recounted, Bert’s father took the boy out fishing with him, since Bert’s mother had died when he was three years old. As a routine precaution to keep the youngster safe from being washed overboard during the perilous hours of fishing in high seas, Bert was lashed to the mainmast. On one trip, the boat developed an irreparable leak. As the panicked crew abandoned the sinking ship, each man believed someone else had untied little Bert. After the dories had cleared the doomed vessel, one man — realizing there was no sign of the boy — ordered his boat back to search. His mates refused to undertake such a dangerous mission until the would-be rescuer threatened one of them with deadly force. Bert was saved.
Bert Perry left school at 15 for a job at the Cape Cod Cold Storage Company, 125 Commercial Street. Then Bill Travis hired Perry to work in his food market at 91 Commercial Street. (The address was No. 91 at the time, but that later was assigned to the house constructed next door, whereupon the market building was renumbered 93.)
In 1919, at the age of 18, Perry took over the market. He was to own and run it for the next 49 years. His first clerk was Joseph Cook, father of Peter Robert Cook of 21 Mechanic Street.
Bert Perry is at the left in this photo of Perry’s Market, standing next to Joseph G. Cook. George Adams Sr. and Anthony “Happy” Perry are gathered around the Coca-Cola cooler. At the far right is the mail carrier William A. White, who would go on to develop Bill White’s Motel. Perry’s was associated for many years with the Nation-Wide Service Grocers collective. That sign would have been fire-engine red. The house at right was razed many years ago. Rep. Gerry Studds later built his home on that lot. [Lisa King / My Grandfathers Provincetown]
A matchbook for Perry’s Market and the Central Cash Market, 188 Commercial Street, which Bert Perry also owned. [Salvador R. Vasques III / My Provincetown Memorabilia Collection]
Perry’s Market in the mid-1960s, after the abutting store had been torn down and before the Studds house was built. [Collection of Frank Vasello]
The plaque at Town Hall honoring Bert Perry. [2011, Dunlap]
Bert wed Mary Leal Fratus (1902-1972). Their children were Bertha Mae (Perry) Woodfin (1928-2019) and Ann Elizabeth (Perry) Pierce (1933-2011).
Perry’s Market joined the Nation-Wide Service Grocers collective in the 1920s. This was a kind of Anti-A&P, composed of otherwise independent local stores that sought the economies of scale enjoyed by the gigantic A&P combine, based in New York, which was the nation’s largest retailer at the time. “Each store is individually owned and under the supervision of the proprietor himself rather than the usual manager,” Nation-Wide said in a 1929 advertisement, underscoring the implicit jab at A&P with the slogan: “Spend your money where it goes the farthest — but not the farthest from home!”
Jennette Cook Evans Dungan shared her recollection of the store in May 2021 in My Grandfather’s Provincetown: “I can still remember the cool air that hit you when you entered Perry’s, especially when it was really hot; the small cooler with ice cream bars; and the feel of my bare feet on the wood floor. One of my favorite childhood memories.” Perry sold the market in 1968 to his former delivery boy, John W. O’Donnell.
Bert Perry had more to do in town than run a waterfront grocery store. His civic service extended 45 years, including a spell as the acting town manager. At one time or another he sat on the Sewerage Committee, Water Commission, School Committee, Rationing Board (during World War II), Light and Power Committee, Water Study Committeee, Finance Committee (for an entire decade), Select Board, and Charter Study Committee. Recognizing this exceptional service, Town Meeting voted in 1977 to bestow his name on the caucus hall in Town Hall.
Postscript: As long as his boyhood rescuer was still alive, Bert Perry supplied him with groceries.
Perry’s marker. [2012, Dunlap]
• Find a Grave Memorial No. 138835292. (Ann)
• Find a Grave Memorial No. 28375553. (Bert)
• Find a Grave Memorial No. 196229684. (Bertha)
• Find a Grave Memorial No. 28375422. (Mary)
¶ Last updated on 24 December 2021.