Photo by Elaine Rackley: Seven-year-old Mattie Bowman knelt down in the doorway of her grandparents’ store.
The Tomato Patch sells a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as numerous homemade goods.
Eddie and Debbie Woods have opened a small market in McDonough, where barrels of produce flow out onto counters, in much the same way they did decades ago, when Henry County was mostly rural.
“We get fresh produce daily,” said Eddie Woods.
Rows of collards, turnips and mustard greens are on display for customers as they enter the Tomato Patch market, at 917 Georgia Highwy 81 West, near I-75.
Fruit of various kinds, including oranges, tangerines, grapes and apples are at the front door. Other available items include: bananas, potatoes, eggplants, squash, snap peas, okra and other vegetables.
The store has an ample supply of pure cane sorghum syrup, honey, chow-chow, apple butter, blackberry jam, peach preserves, orange marmalade, strawberry preserves, hot tomato relish, black bean salsa, habanero salsa, and pure cane molasses.
“I don’t like to drive three miles to a grocery store to pick up odds and ends, so I know other people feel the same way I do,” said Eddie Woods, 63.
“We want to be the little neighborhood convenience store.” The Woods live within a mile of the store. It was opened the weekend after Thanksgiving, and business has been brisk.
Holding and inspecting some oranges recently, Henry resident, Gene Hughes, is sold on the market. “I buy from here because I know they have good and fresh fruit,” the Hampton man said. He finished his inspection, and made his selections.
Another customer, browsing through the store, was Shelia Crump. She recently moved to McDonough from Locust Grove. “I love to shop local,” said Crump. “The people are more friendly, and it’s good to support small business owners,” she added.
“I’m gonna get some of this chow-chow [a mixture often used on vegetable dishes],” declared Frank Jones, of McDonough. He reached on a shelf filled with relishes and preserves, and got the item he was seeking.
“Our prices are better than the larger stores, because we don’t have the overhead,” said Woods. He said he opened his first store at the Atlanta State Farmer’s Market, in Forest Park, in 1966. He met his wife, Debbie, there.
“I’ve been working at the farmer’s market mostly all of my life, since I was eight,” said Debbie Woods. “Daddy taught us to work. We did peach-packing in the summer months, and knocked on doors and sold eggs in the winter.”
The couple moved to McDonough five years ago. When Debbie spotted the building [where the store is now], “I said, if that building ever became available, I was going to buy it, and open a fruit stand,” she said.
The Woods still own their store inside the farmer’s market in Forest Park, where they sell plants, wholesale.