Mouth-wateringly appealing

Tops, store’s produce manager awarded for best watermelon display in entire nation

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Tops Friendly Markets officials, from left, Store Manager Steve Peroski, Director of Produce Jeff Cady, Produce Manager Mike Atkins, and Produce and Floral Field Specialist Mike Cercone recognize Atkins for winning a national watermelon display contest.

Mike Atkins didn’t grow the watermelons at Tops Friendly Markets in Warren.

But he made them so appealing that he won a national award.

Atkins, produce manager at Tops in Warren, was recently recognized by the National Watermelon Promotions Board and the National Watermelon Association for having the best display in the nation.

Along with the recognition, Atkins received $1,000, which he said he will split among his team of five.

The display was related to the summer Olympics and named Wrestling with Watermelons.

“Back in August we ran an event in conjunction with the Olympics,” Tops Director of Produce Jeff Cady said. “Mike was our grand prize winner for our western region.”

“It was a heck of a display,” Tops Produce and Floral Field Specialist Mike Cercone said.

There were whole watermelons, fresh-cut and mini watermelons in the display.

It was not the only produce display Atkins created, but it was the only one to win a national award.

“Every week during the Olympics, we theme a different event,” Cercone said.

In addition to wrestling, there was boxing with berries, fencing with fresh express, cross-country with cherries, and several others.

The internal events encourage creativity and are popular with customers and vendors, Cady said. The company raised $30,000 from vendors for prizes.

Then Cady moved the best the company had to offer to the contest specifically for watermelons.

“We got the best of the best and forwarded it on,” Cady said. “We were fortunate enough to win.”

It doesn’t take a store in a big market to win a national award. “It’s pretty cool,” Store Manager Steve Peroski said. “Warren wins a national contest.”

“It was a double win for Mike,” Cady said. “He won the company contest and the national one.”