Do you have any squash? customers would ask. Brenda would run over to the garden to see what she could find. What about okra? Can you get any okra?
Soon Shadetree Produce became a frequent stop for many Catoosa and Walker residents who pass that way. Ikey Land helped the Norrises construct a shelter of PVC and tarps. Ronnie Norris purchased the fruits and vegetables they could not grow, and the little business developed a loyal customer base. Many Shadetree customers are elderly and depend on the produce stand for fresh foods close to home.
Then someone decided that Shadetree Produce was in the way. The Norrises say they were informed by the county that a turn lane would be installed along the right-of-way in about three weeks. One week later, the roadwork team appeared, paving an 18-foot turn lane right over their driveway.
Ronnie Norris was at the market when they came, buying $700 worth of produce. All of it spoiled. In fact, the Norrises say they lost approximately $6,000 in revenue while the county was installing the turn lane. Brenda says the county would not let customers stop at the produce stand. They were just waving them past.
The workers left behind a black stretch of asphalt where the parking lot had been, with a guardrail nearly blocking entrance to the produce stand. People started coming by, asking Whod you make mad? Brenda recalls.
Eva Hatcher, who lives on Poplar Springs Road and works at the produce stand, says that traffic is much worse now than before the turn lane was installed. Another possibility existed for the county that of buying a nearby house that is for sale directly across from the Poplar Springs and Three Notch intersection, and accessing the new Heritage schools through that piece of property. This is a natural place to install a traffic light.
This is just another tale of how the county government walks on those it ought to serve. Rather than working with the Norrises to complete the turn lane without damaging their income, the county simply bulldozed them. They were not consulted just as the fire departments were not consulted before County Commissioners voted to advertise for a consolidated fire chief. They were merely informed, and not in time to react.
Fortunately, thats not the end of the story for Ronnie and Brenda Norris. Shadetree Produce customers rallied to their support, encouraging them to revamp rather than close the stand. They took down the old PVC-and-tarp structure, and bought a metal building to replace it. Bobby Swanson Construction made them a good deal for construction of a small parking lot. Johnny Coots and Charles Simerley provided doors and windows for the new building.
Commissioner Bobby Winters, a frequent customer, brought in gravel to set the new building, and put in a Poplar Springs access drive. But when Ronnie suggested the county should reimburse Shadetree for part of the business loss and cost of moving, he says Winters smiled and asked, How would you prove it?
Shadetree Produce is open seven days a week. Pumpkins are, of course, in season, as well as a variety of crunchy apples trucked in from Virginia due to the Georgia drought. They also have oranges and honeybells, which are a type of tangelo. The bell peppers were especially good last week. I served mine stuffed with corn chips, ground beef, tomato paste and rice, topped with parmesan and croutons.
Take some time this week to stop at a local produce stand. Eat in a restaurant where the name is not printed on the napkins, and where the woman who sets your plate on the table is likely the owner, or at least a cousin or a friend.
Buy a gift at a locally-owned shop, where the owner selects every item and places it lovingly on the shelf. The extra dollar you may spend builds up Catoosa County and makes it a better place to live. When we buy locally, we support our friends and neighbors instead of shifting jobs to underpaid workers in foreign countries. When we support local businesses, we are really giving back to ourselves.
Jeannie Babb Taylor is a local business leader and author. She also teaches Sunday school, educates her children at home, and engages in Georgia politics. Jeannie may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can leave a public comment on her blog at OntheOtherHandColumn.blogspot.com.
CLICK ON THESE LINKS