by Alex Garland
MacPherson’s Fruit & Produce, a beloved neighborhood produce stand that has been a staple since its move from Pike Place Market to the South End in 1984, recently announced their closing via a handwritten sign in front of their parking lot. The store is set to sell its last plum, pepper, and plantain on Oct. 8, 2023. The news has left loyal patrons, employees, and community members “bummed,” marking the end of an era for a business that has been a cherished part of the neighborhood for nearly four decades.
Marilyn Dimalanta, a dedicated longtime employee and bookkeeper of MacPherson’s Fruit & Produce, shared her sentiments about the closing, expressing her deep appreciation for Greg MacPherson, the store’s owner. She said, “He has a big heart. He considered us his family. We only found out two weeks ago. We assumed it would get better.”
MacPherson’s Fruit & Produce cites financial challenges as the primary reason for its closure. Dimalanta shared the difficulty of sustaining profitability, especially given the rising cost of living and inflation affecting product and shipping costs. “It’s not making money, not enough to pay bills, not enough to pay employees. The big impact for us, the raise in salary. We hire high school students, we pay them $19 [an hour].” Lamenting the owners’ challenging choices, Dimalanta understands MacPherson has to follow the law when it comes to paying minimum wage, but wishes he could pay long-standing employees and those with children higher salaries. “And next year it will go up again, how can we survive? And people don’t want minimum wage, they want a higher salary.” The current minimum wage in Seattle is $18.69 for most workers, and in order not to be rent-burdened, the average Seattle renter needs to make $40.38 an hour.
The closing of the Mercer International Middle School was also a significant loss to the store’s customer base. MacPherson’s had become a convenient stop for families and students, providing an opportunity for parents to shop for fresh produce and students to pick up culturally significant snacks that are often hard to find.
Paulo Punzalan, 27, who has dedicated eight years of his life to MacPherson’s, expressed his sadness at the closure. He noted the seasonal downturn in business during winter and the inability to cover labor costs as key challenges. Despite the financial strain, he praised the workplace environment and the caring attitude of owner Greg MacPherson.
Longtime customer Rob Wood expressed his shock and sorrow regarding the impending closure. Wood had been a loyal patron for eight years and described the news as “tragic.” Wood was surprised by the decision, given the store’s consistent customer flow and the vital role it played in providing accessible fresh produce to the community.
Wood emphasized that MacPherson’s was more than just a grocery store; it was a symbol of community and a lifeline for many. “Anytime that you lose the opportunity to be able to access fresh produce is a pretty big loss. I feel like the pricing here was always at a place where, particularly for the quality of food that you got, was really reasonable. And I think that’s really important for a lot of families. Just the ability to be able to access fresh produce.”
Wood also voiced concerns about the diminishing options for fresh produce in the neighborhood, which he described as inching closer to becoming a “food desert.” He lamented the trend of grocery store closures in the area and the changing nature of farmers’ markets, which he observed were increasingly focusing on manufactured foods rather than fresh fruits and vegetables.
Pat McShea, a resident in the neighborhood, shared their disappointment over the closure. “It’s been here since before I moved in 36 years ago. Now I have to go further and pay more. They expanded and have a lot more variety of the stuff you don’t get at major grocery stores. It’s been here forever and it’s a bummer.”
As the closing date of Oct. 8 approaches, the South Beacon Hill community and loyal customers are preparing to say farewell to MacPherson’s Fruit & Produce, an establishment that has not only been a reliable provider of fresh fruit and vegetables for generations, but a community-oriented business that will be missed.
The current operating hours of the store are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., offering its customers a last chance to savor the fruits and vegetables that have been a fixture in their lives for so long.
Alex Garland is a photojournalist and reporter. With a degree in emergency administration and disaster planning from the University of North Texas, Alex spent his early professional career as a GIS analyst for FEMA. Follow him on Twitter.
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