Veggies, Fruits & More keeps on truckin’
The sun is beating down on the brow of Allen Curtis on a muggy Tuesday afternoon.
He doesn’t complain, but continues to sort through a bucket of freshly picked and locally grown strawberries.
Along with his son, Curtis is the proud, but worried owner of Veggies, Fruits and More — a once established storefront now searching for a new permanent home.
Ironically, it is the pending construction of a chain restaurant that brought about the forced relocation of a local upstart, who prides himself as a partner in the “grow local” movement.
Working from the back of a delivery truck is a far cry from the 3,000 square feet of floor space he once operated from just a short distance from his current location in a field next to Dancey’s Shoes on the N.C. 105 Extension.
The pending arrival of a new Zaxby’s restaurant necessitated moving, and soaring rental properties in the area have left him sitting by the roadside hoping for a new roof over his tomatoes and strawberries.
His fresh fruits won’t be the only things feeling the squeeze this summer if he can’t find a new storefront. When he was informed he would have to take his heirloom tomatoes, organic grown cucumbers and Vidalia onions elsewhere, Curtis said he was hopeful for a smooth transition, adding that he soon found out that the growing and supporting local movement might as well be a food-only incentive.
Curtis admitted, however, that he was a bit spoiled by Boone standards when it came to leases. Curtis said he enjoyed a $750 per month lease on his old stand, located near Papa John’s Pizza, and his next best offer for a new spot came in at $3,500 per month.
“The problem is rent is so expensive around here,” he said.
Curtis began selling produce almost four years ago, he said, after divine intervention guided him to his current path. He soon brought his son on board and made it a family affair. His wife said he was crazy, but their quick profits silenced the critics.
Now, Curtis is facing a new struggle, and it’s not finding an ample supply of locally grown food.
Today, Curtis said he is facing a battle for the future of his produce stand and is hoping his burgeoning clientele, particularly the students, will carry him through this transitional period.
“I love the local folks, but students, when you get to know them, you love them, too,” he said.
A warm, mutually benefiting relationship arose between Curtis and university students when they became recurring customers, and he was able to share his firsthand experience on the benefits of growing local.
“The students, they are my heroes,” Curtis said.
While students sustain his business during the colder months, when most of his produce is trucked from across the country and Mexico, it is the locals who keep him going during the summer.
Continued interaction with customers and their words of encouragement is, after all, what makes the struggle worth it in the end.
“It ain’t the produce, but the relationships you build are just unreal,” Curtis said.
Got food news? Email editor Frank Ruggiero at (email@example.com) , or call (828) 264-6397.