People in Portland look forward each April when Jo Ann Gore and Jerry McDowell open their produce market at 700 South Russell Street. Gore and McDowell have sold fresh vegetables and fruit locally for at least 20 years and their business continues to grow.
They work as a team with McDowell getting the produce and keeping the market stocked, while Gore greets customers and helps them with their purchases. But it is more than a place to buy fresh produce. It is a place to catch up on what’s happening in town or learning who just had a baby, who’s sick, or who is at the funeral home.
It’s a place to run into old friends and renew acquaintances. Often people stop by just to sit under the carport and visit for a few minutes. No one gets in a hurry when they stop to talk to Jo Ann and Jerry.
Not much has changed over the years except moving the location of the produce. Once the tables were set up in the side yard with umbrellas covering the tables, but a few years ago they put up a metal carport in the back which offers better protection.
McDowell goes daily to Scottsville and to local farmers to get the fruits and vegetables they sell. You can always find a wide variety of squash, green beans, zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe, green onions, eggplant and peppers; but according to Gore, if they don’t have tomatoes, the customers often leave without buying anything. Tomatoes are their biggest seller.
They get a lot of customers when sweet corn comes in. Recently, they have added canned products such as various jellies, sweet and hot pepper relish and pickles.
Locally, they get their sweet corn from Bill Mequiar. The green beans come from Joe Mooneyhan, with the peaches coming from Walter Veal’s peach orchard.
Gore said, “There is always a steady flow of customers. Sometimes I don’t even look up because there are so many people in line. Our busiest times are in the afternoons when people get off work and stop by.”
The produce stand opens seasonally from April through October. It is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and on Saturdays they open at the normal time but close at 4 p.m.
Gore smiled as she said, “Come see us.”