HAMLET — After 37 years, Carol and Oliver Turner, owners of the Hamlet Produce Center, will be closing their doors in June.
Carol said she’ll miss coming into work, but most of all, she’ll truly miss the people.
“I thank all of our customers,” she said. “They’re the ones who made it all possible. Them and the Lord.”
Oliver said he opened their business in May 1982. He said he worked in the grocery business for 17 years before he lost his job at Big Star Grocery. Oliver spent nine months looking for work before the couple decided to go into business together.
When they first opened, Carol said the store used to be filled with all sorts of fresh produce, candies and drinks that one could find in an “old-timey country store”.
“People don’t see many country stores anymore,” said Carol.
On Christmas, Carol and Oliver said they remember selling candies like cream drops, peanut butter bars, chocolate covered peanuts, peanut brittle, coconut bon bons and several other sweet treats. They would also have specialty items they’d sell in the store including meat skins (similar to pork rinds), liver pudding and yellow pound cake with white frosting Carol’s mom used to bake. Carol said customers ask her about the cake to this day.
The couple introduced the fish portion of their store 25 years ago. Carol said the produce didn’t feel like enough and customers would ask why they didn’t sell fish. The couple unofficially renamed their store as the Hamlet Fish Center after they fizzled out produce to sell only fish. They currently get their fish from Atlantic Seafood, a company from Hampstead, North Carolina.
“Once we put the fish in, everything fell into place,” she said.
But after several years of being in Hamlet, Carol and Oliver, who are now in their 70’s, said it’s time to go. Oliver said after he posted the sign on their window stating that they were closing in June, more customers have come in to check out their store.
“Where have they been for 37 years?” Oliver joked.
Long time customer Jim Griffin said he’s lived in Hamlet his whole life and has been coming to the store since he was a little kid. He said a lot of people will miss their “hometown service”.
“I’ll miss the store and the good service,” he said. “It’s good business when you don’t have to explain yourself. You can come in and they know what you want.”
Oliver said he hates to see the store close down and hopes someone will come forward and purchase the building to keep the store running. He said he would come in and help show them around if someone was interested in the store.
“It’s a vital part of the community,” Oliver said, looking around the store. “It’s been very rewarding.”
Carol said they will close the store just as they opened it: together. On retirement, she said they will take it one day at a time and see where they go from there.
“We might take some day trips and see the beauty of the earth,” she said. “Or go fishing!”
“We won’t be bored,” added Oliver. He said they have children and grandchildren who live out of state they can go visit, and they both like to garden. “The first day will probably be exciting and it might not hit me for a week or two.”
Reach Jasmine Hager at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]