Tomatoes, Etc. opens Feb. 20

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 11, 2007

A new business hopes to bring a &#8220fresh and friendly” taste to Greenville.

Tomatoes, Etc., located on Cahaba

Road, is slated to open February 20.

The market will offer a large array of locally grown produce and a whole lot more, say owners Jerry and Holli Hawsey.

Good country eats were an inspiration for the business.

&#8220I love good food, fresh food and I love to cook. I was raised in the country on collards, corn and tomatoes - and that's what we want to bring to folks here,” Jerry Hawsey said.

The produce market will carry Buckhead beef steaks cut to order (&#8220The finest steaks you can put your hands on”), fresh-from-the-Gulf seafood, gourmet-quality coffee to sip on-site or take home to brew, and a selection of spices, fresh herbs, hot sauces, syrups, honey, jams, jellies and pickles.

&#8220We like to say it'll be a little bit country and a little bit sophisticated,” Holli Hawsey said with a smile.

Tomatoes, Etc. will also offer fresh-baked breads; convenience foods such as milk and eggs; garden fresh salads, fruit cups and desserts-to-go, and a pea sheller &#8220so folks can bring in their own peas to shell or buy them shelled from us.” Frozen homemade casseroles will also be available for pickup.

The market will offer more than food. Unusual rocking chairs, cast iron cookware and other items unique to the area will also be found here.

Just don't expect to see commercial trucks hauling in long-distance produce, the owners say.

&#8220Any fruits and vegetables you see for sale here, either I have gone out and looked over and picked out, or local farmers have delivered to us. The local stuff is the best,” Jerry said with a grin.

The Hawseys say they want their market to offer plenty of small-town &#8220service with a smile.”

&#8220We want people to come in and feel free to browse, sample a grape or two. If we send you home with a pint of strawberries or a bag of potatoes and you find out there are some bad ones, bring them back and we will happily replace them,” Jerry Hawsey added.

&#8220In the long term, we hope to be on first-name basis with everyone who comes in to shop with us.”

Jerry Hawsey, who worked in the manufactured home business for a number of years, said he was simply &#8220ready for a change” in mid-2005 when plans for the produce market began to come together.

&#8220A friend of mine talked about a great produce market in Millbrook. That got me started thinking. Holli and I talked about it and prayed about it. We found some private investors and broke ground in May 2006,” he explained.

&#8220What started out as a sketch on a piece of notebook paper is what you see right now,” Hawsey said as he waved his hands around the store's interior.

Their business, a striking two-story barn-style structure, features plenty of &#8220pre-loved” lumber and tin throughout its design.

&#8220We reclaimed all this wood and tin from old barns and other buildings being torn down,” Jerry noted with pride.

It's been a story of perseverance, patience – and more than a little ingenuity.

When they couldn't get the lighting fixtures they wanted delivered in time, the Hawseys created their own.

&#8220These galvanized tin tubs you see overhead came from the Co-op. We bought the electrical fittings and put them together at our dining room table,” Jerry explained.

Two televisions mounted in corners of the market will be tuned into The Food Network, while displays will promote the vegetable or fruit of the month and offer recipes using the fresh produce.

Upstairs, Holli says, the couple will eventually add a gift shop with gourmet foods and other items. &#8220We also want to put in a kitchen later where Jerry can make his own jams and jellies. Believe me, he makes the best.”

The Hawseys plan to make their market picture-perfect for every season.

Come spring, Jerry promises a mini Bellingrath Gardens outside the market, with beautiful flowers and plants for sale.

&#8220In the fall, we'll have a pumpkin patch, and starting the day after Thanksgiving, come for mulled cider, Christmas music and wonderful trees.

We'll have some of these sturdy young men to load the trees for you,” Jerry said.

Tomatoes, Etc. will be open Mondays through Saturdays, with a tentative schedule of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., opening extended hours during peak holiday times.

&#8220This will be an unusual place. You can come here and buy the best steak - and you can come here and buy the best collards,” Holli laughed.