North Texas Daily

Local grocer now defunct after decades

Local grocer now defunct after decades

Local grocer now defunct after decades
September 10
08:21 2013

Hasan Waheedi / Staff Writer

Locally known “mom and pop” greengrocer Ken’s Produce closed up shop in late August after decades of serving the Denton community with Texas-grown produce.

Renowned for their fresh tomatoes, farm-picked avocados and helpful customer care, the family-owned shop supplied produce at farmer’s markets in the Denton area. However, with new competition from large natural food outlets such as Natural Grocers, Ken’s Produce was unable to compete.

“I was really sad to see it close down,” said Abbie Theobald, who managed the store in the summer of 2008.

Theobald, the only non-family member employed at Ken’s at the time, said the generosity of the family, specifically the father Carlos Nunez, is what made Ken’s stand out.

“He was the best boss I ever had,” Theobald said. “There was a long-term customer who was unable to come in due to their age, so he would deliver free of charge.”

The Nunez family bought the shop in 2003 after being run by its original owner for more than 20 years. Most produce at Ken’s came from farmer’s markets in Dallas, but it also imported products such as cheese, corn and flour from Mexico. But with lower-priced goods and larger quantities at corporate organic food stores, survival for the small business became a tough task.

“They didn’t really make a profit and had to scrape by just to make ends meet,” Theobald said. “But they loved what they did.”

UNT graduate student and owner of Denton produce supporting site FeedDenton.org Andrew Miller said despite being located near the square, Ken’s downfall was due to lack of self-promotion.

“It was a stellar location, but they were not involved in social media,” Miller said.

Theobold said she agreed with Miller and said the family could have benefited from marketing themselves more.

“If they would have branded their store as organic or local, it could have worked,” Theobold said.

Currently, the abandoned Ken’s can still be seen on 410 N. Bell Ave., but nothing has been announced regarding a possible reopening.

“It’s a Denton landmark,” Theobold said. “I would really hate to see it go down.”

Dentonites may not be able to taste Ken’s famous tomatoes any time soon, but local house turned produce shop, Earthwise Gardens and Produce offers an alternative.

“Produce is all Texas and all organic,” said Sarah Schulwitz, an environmental science graduate student and Earthwise volunteer.

Earthwise, which opened in November, sells Texas produce during every season all year long. With fall fruiting watermelon and squash, among others, Earthwise is willing to exchange its produce with students who volunteer at the shop.

“Anyone who helps out gets a share of the day, which is a big bag of produce,” Schulwitz said.

Feature photo by Edward Balusek / Staff Photographer 

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