By LISA WHALEY
Hiram Poore would have been pleased.
Though the longtime Washington County farmer passed away in 1994, the unusual shed he once stored farm equipment in has recently been restored.
The architect of this transformation is his granddaughter, Melissa Ford. And she has done it all in honor of her grandfather.
“This building has actually been in our family since the 1950s,” Ford said recently as she stood outside the new Mimi’s Produce market located on Highway 81 South between Jonesborough and Lamar. “It’s over 100 years old.”
Before it housed her grandfather’s equipment, it was home to some groundbreaking automobiles.
“That’s the reason the doors are like they are,” she said, indicating the double doors on each side of the small market. “It’s because they worked on A-Models and T-Models in here.’’
Though the building has been in her family for some time, it took a while for Ford to recognize its potential. She has always loved the idea of owning a little market — “It’s always kind of been a passion of mine,” she said — but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that Ford and her husband, Jesse, recognized the potential in the old shed.
“We realized that would be a great location, she said. “It took us about a year and a half of work.” Son Jake and daughter Chloe joined in.
They had planned for a May 1 opening date, but when the pandemic hit, the family paused — then kept on working. As an essential business, Ford said, they realized their plans didn’t have to come to a screeching halt.
On May 1, they proudly opened, with all the appropriate social distancing guidelines in place.
“It’s been steady,” Ford said as she looked around the store. Around the outside of the market, flowers, vegetable plants and more beckon. Inside, shoppers find fresh produce — green beans, tomatoes, okra, apples, squash, just to name a few — as well as a collection of dried and canned goods. There are even a display of special soaps and a cooler filled with grape Nehis and Dr. Enufs.
“Not everyone who comes here wants produce,” she explained.
Currently, hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. “As the season comes in here, we’ll feature more and more local farmers,” she promised.
Throughout the market, Ford hopes her grandfather’s presence will always be felt. “He did everything by hand and by horse,” she said. His old farm utensils decorate the walls. And the exterior still pays tribute to those bygone days.
“The cedar posts with the red dots on,” Ford pointed out. “Actually, the lady that lived here when my grandfather got it, she actually painted those red dots. He kept it up through the years too. And we wanted to put it back to the original.”
So far, the entire process has been somewhat magical. “God has been in this every step of the way,” Ford said. And she is hopeful for her market’s future and its chance to become a part of the local community.
“We’ve always told our kids to follow your dreams,” Ford said, as she contemplated the process that led her to this spot. “And I realized, I’m not even doing that myself. I just decided it’s time.”