hirty years ago this past June, Paul and Betty Carter opened a produce market in Fayetteville. Their business is thriving to this day.
This seemingly rash decision didn’t quite come out of the blue. Before becoming his own boss, Paul— the store’s namesake— spent several years hauling produce for larger supermarket chains, to include Food Lion. When the couple and Fayetteville area natives made the choice to open their own store, they came prepared with the necessary skills and knowledge, and just needed a location.
“We found this land here and bought us a building,” explained Betty Carter.
And that simple, hands-on approach can be found in every aspect of the company’s operation. In addition to both Betty and Paul, who remain actively involved on a daily basis, the market employs only three other people the majority of the year, along with a handful of seasonal staff to pick up the slack during the summer.
Although Paul’s is notably busier throughout the summer months, they differ from many of their competitors in that they don’t have an off-season.
“We’re open year round,” said Betty, “Many people think we go home when the weather gets cold, but we’re still here. There is merchandise available in the winter that you can’t get in the summer, and our customers don’t miss out on those products.”
None of this will come as a surprise to locals who frequent the shop. Typical clientele range from blue collar workers, to office professionals to numerous retired folks.
“We have so many loyal customers. Adults shop with us now who came in as children, and I remember their parents and grandparents, some of whom have even passed on.”
"We love our customers. We appreciate their continued business. They are the reason we are still going strong," expressed Paul.
What keeps the regulars coming back, even spanning generations? One reason is certainly the small-town, family-friendly atmosphere, and another is one word: quality. The Carters take a great deal of pride in their product, and set themselves up for success by starting out with the best possible produce.
“We buy good quality so that we can serve good quality,” said Betty.
Much of the produce is local, but Paul travels to Columbia, South Carolina twice a week to gather produce that may be out of season or that isn’t available close by. As the seasons change, the Carters stock their store with nearly every fruit and vegetable you can think of. In summer: squashes, beans, different types of corn and the like. Winter specialties include all sorts of greens such as turnips and collards. When it comes to other basic items, Paul’s is stocked year round.
These foods include apples, pears, peaches (“We have delicious peaches!” Betty made sure to point out), tomatoes, onions and potatoes of all varieties, zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, every type of lettuce from romaine to iceberg, peppers, broccoli...and the list goes on. The shop also offers certain dairy products like eggs and cheese.
“We sell lots of varieties of cheese,” assured Betty, “including the old-timey hook cheese with the black rind. That type of cheese is perfect for meals like mac and cheese, and is a favorite for the older folks.” No doubt it’s this sort of unique charm that makes this business so special.
“Quality” doesn’t end with a superior product, though. The couple and their staff consistently go the extra mile to be sure what they put on their shelves is clean and will stay fresh for the long term.
“Unlike other shops, we clean all of our onions, sort through all our produce and never put anything on display inside of a container. People are constantly telling us that our lettuce lasts longer than any they’ve bought anywhere else!”
When asked if they have plans for future expansion or change, Betty laughed, “Not at the moment… we’re getting old!”
And when looking at the couple’s success, a common phrase comes to mind: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Pay them a visit
Paul’s Produce of Fayetteville
1010 Marlborough Road, Fayetteville
Find them on Facebook under “Paul’s Produce of Fayetteville” Here you can sign up to receive alerts when certain items become available or new products arrive.
9:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.