The little farmhouse red building has been like a small-town country store, where you could get cheap dairy, fresh produce and catch up with the neighbors.
It has also been a local favorite for families who wanted to pick their own pumpkins in the patch behind the store or get a fresh Christmas tree.
But today, Amicarella’s Valley Produce closes after seven years of business on Best Road and 32nd Avenue. The building and land, owned by Jerry Amicarella, will be leased to Fresh Abundance, a supplier of local and organic produce, which will open Feb. 16.
Amicarella, who also owns Mamma Mia’s restaurant on the North Side, said the restaurant, which he bought four years ago, has engulfed him. “It’s like cooking for the holiday’s everyday,” he said.
So when Jacque and BrightSpirit Hendrix, owners of Fresh Abundance, approached him about leasing, he said, “Yes, I’m tired.”
This last week, customers came to the store to say goodbye and check out the deals one last time.
“Amicarella’s is neighborhood friendly,” said Connie Nelson as she picked up a few groceries and gave her best wishes to Veronique Staker, the smiling employee behind the counter most days.
“I’m going to miss all my customers so much,” said Staker as she helped one customer after another, each one telling her how much they’d miss her and the store.
The best part of working at Amicarella’s was watching customers’ children grow up over the years, Staker said. On the wall behind the counter, she posted pictures of some of those kids perched among the pumpkins and she cheerfully returns their hugs when they come in to say goodbye.
“This is a mainstay,” said Kimberly Main, a customer who frequented the store once a week, and often walked her dog down for a treat. “I’d rather come here than a regular store.”
Nelson, who patronized the store about three times a week since it opened, said she usually picked up staples like cereal, produce and cans of fruit along with specialty items, like exotic marinades or canned goods with labels that weren’t in English.
“It was a nice break coming down here and chatting with my neighbors and seeing what new goodies they have since two days ago,” Nelson said. “Where am I going to go now?”
In Amicarella’s place, Fresh Abundance will continue to supply fresh and locally grown produce as well as organic food. It will also offer regular organic gardening classes, said owner BrightSpirit Hendrix. The Valley store is the third location. They have one on the South Hill and one under renovation on the North Side.
“It will be the best place to get local farm goods,” Hendrix said, noting they will sell local beef, pork, chicken, eggs, milk and cheese along with local produce.
The store will be open to the public, said Hendrix, with special offers to their membership, about 1,100 people. With a registration fee and annual dues, members can place delivery orders.
“We have a lot of people in the Valley who are members and this will give them better access,” said Hendrix, adding that she is excited to begin growing and selling some of her own food again along with food from 60 area growers.
“I farmed for seven years and I miss it really bad,” she said. “To be out there playing in the dirt is my favorite thing to do.”
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