Vendors bring fresh produce, crawfish to the Miss-Lou

Published 1:21 am Sunday, June 8, 2008

NATCHEZ — Summer vegetables cooked for hours and seasoned to perfection are a mainstay on the Southern dinner table. And thanks to roadside produce stands and local produce vendors that tradition of fresh summer vegetables will be sticking around for a while.

Local produce vendors like Dan Wells and George “Peter Rabbit” Davis are making sure residents of the Miss-Lou can get their hands on these summer treasures.

Wells believes the reason people come to Wells Produce for their vegetables is simple. They just taste better he said.

Email newsletter signup

“People don’t want tomatoes and cucumbers out of a cooler. Putting them in a cooler takes the taste out,” Wells said. “Our produce is never cooled.”

Maybe that is his secret. Wells has been operating Wells Produce with his wife, Ann, since 1990 and each year he sees the same faces walk into his business, now located on Homochitto Street.

Some people come more often than others but Wells credits returning customers for his success.

“We see the same people come in every two or three days and we have some people who come in every day and get two or three tomatoes,” Wells said. “I’m not really sure why we got into the produce business in 1990 it was just something we wandered off into, but it has been good to us since then.”

Davis, who operates Davis Produce on U.S. 61 North, agrees that fresh is the way to go when it comes to vegetables and crawfish, which he says are his specialty.

“I’ve got the best crawfish in Mississippi and Louisiana,” Davis said. “It is all in the way I season them.”

But that special seasoning recipe isn’t something Davis was willing to give up.

“They are seasoned to perfection but I can’t tell you how. That’s my secret.”

Davis doesn’t stop at crawfish when bragging on his selection though. He says his watermelons are also top notch.

“I’ve got the best watermelons. They come from Smith County and Texas,” Davis said. “People come here to get the best from the best.”

Davis may say his secret is the way he seasons his crawfish and Wells contends that his veggies taste the best because they are never cooled but both know a little about customer service.

Wells and Davis both keep their businesses open year round and stock seasonal items as they become available.

Wells now has tomatoes, squash, peaches and a few other items on the shelves but will be increasing his variety in the next week.

“Next week I’ll be getting in watermelons, cantaloupes, okra and a few other things,” Wells said. “This is the time of year when everything starts coming in.”

And when the summer months have passed the inventory the rush at Wells Produce won’t stop.

“We’re pecan people. We are Christmas tree people. We are jumbo peanut people,” Wells said. “People come from as far away as Monterey to get jumbo peanuts.”

Currently Davis’ stand stocks watermelons, sweet potatoes, boiled crawfish and homemade cracklings but will be adding all types of greens to his inventory shortly.

And Davis isn’t planning on stopping there either.

The location he is currently running his business on was bought by the state so he will be moving soon to a location on Pilgrim Boulevard. near Walgreens. The move gives Davis the chance to add to his business.

“I’ll be adding more to my collection after I get relocated,” Davis said. “(The new location) will be a lot bigger.

“I’m going to start with boiled shrimp and crabs and raw oysters.”

He also doesn’t think the move will hurt his business, which gets repeat customers year after year.

“If you are coming down the road and see all these watermelons, aren’t you going to want to stop?”