There’s an unlikely battle going on in downtown Cumming.
It doesn’t involve force or politics, but rather something unexpected and healthy — fresh fruits and veggies.
Two produce stands, located on neighboring lots along Pilgrim Mill Road across from Dairy Queen, have been drawing curiosity and customers the past few weeks.
While skeptics might question the demand for fresh, Georgia-grown produce on a city street, a recent afternoon visit found the corner buzzing with business.
Leslie Callaway owns City Produce, the stand with the tan tents at the corner of Pilgrim Mill and East Maple Street.
With more than 20 years in the fruit and vegetable business, she said she’s been called “the produce queen” in Atlanta growers’ circles.
Callaway, who lives in north Forsyth, said she operated a similar fruit stand in Sandy Springs for about 23 years before briefly retiring.
One day a couple years later, she was “going to pay the light bill” when a thought struck her while waiting at the East Maple intersection.
“I said, ‘Man, this corner would be a great place for a fruit stand,’” Callaway said. “So then I got back in it.”
After renting the space from property owner Jimmy Goodson and securing a business license from the city, Callaway began City Produce earlier this spring.
Just a few feet down the road at Solarworks automobile window tinting, owner Steven Reynolds thought Callaway had a good thing going. He, too, decided to apply for a peddler’s license and launched his own stand a couple weeks after Callaway.
The Solarworks stand, which is called the Honey Hole, sits on a site owned by Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt.
“This is a side business for Solarworks,” said Terrance Garnto, Solarworks manager. “We get our produce from the same place as [Callaway].”
That place is the Georgia State Farmers Market in Forest Park.
Callaway said she makes the 115-mile round trip at least once every day, sometimes twice, to pick up fresh produce from south Georgia growers.
Callway’s stand typically offers blueberries, cantaloupes, peaches, plums, strawberries and watermelons.
Customers will likely also find corn, cucumbers, green beans, okra, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, squash and zucchini.
But Callaway said the selections can vary depending on “the market.”
The Honey Hole has similar offerings, ranging from melons and berries to onions and peppers, as well as some varieties of homemade jam.
On a recent afternoon, Maria Gagnon stopped at City Produce with her 2-year-old son, Gabriel.
“We were just driving by and saw the stand,” Gagnon said. “It’s nice to have a place to buy produce that’s more local than what you get [elsewhere].”
Gagnon said she likes to provide her family with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“I even made all my own baby food for him,” she said.
Kevin Butcher was in town for business when he noticed the stand. He picked up a bag of tomatoes.
“I saw all this good-looking fruit on the corner and had to stop,” said Butcher, who lives in Dacula. “Next time I’m in Cumming, I’ll be back.”
Over at the Honey Hole, employee Brett Carroll said the stand sees most of its business at two particular times.
“It’s usually busy at lunch and after 5,” he said.
City Produce employee Dustin Bowen, who’s working there during summer break from Mercer University in Macon, said the stand sees steady interest.
“We have a lot of repeat customers, but we see a lot of new people too. It’s gotten so big, the volume of customers is ridiculous,” he said, noting that one of his weekend duties is to direct traffic because those days are the busiest.
Bowen said he believes the fruit stand business is great for his hometown.
“There’s a soulfulness to it,” he said. “It’s so much healthier for people. There’s no pesticides or chemicals. Everything’s just very honest. Slowly but surely, I think people are coming around to more natural products like this.”
Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt agreed the stands are good for the area.
“They’re providing a great service,” he said. “A lot of people see good, fresh produce as a necessity since the shelf life isn’t too long.”
The mayor said he’s gone by to buy tomatoes and watermelons, though he didn’t say at which stand.
“It’s all been very good,” he said.