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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Summers Fruit Barn Evokes Small-Town Memories

 “I am glad they did,” is how Lisa Summers describes the forces that brought her to Arizona from Indiana.  As the result of a family move, Summers has made Arizona her permanent home. It is also the headquarters for the longtime business she operates in the South Mountain District.
Celebrating 19 years of operation in her current location this year, Summers has the distinction of being one of the few established concerns that has witnessed the massive transformation of the area from the start.  At one time an area of open land and flower farms, the face of the area has rapidly changed.  New homes are coming, new developments are being erected, but through all of this busy activity, Summers Fruit Barn has survived. It has even managed to make it through new construction and road widening.
Facing South Mountain, Lisa Summers’ Fruit Barn could be a bit easy to overlook, particularly in light of the new developments taking place.  Although road construction on Baseline Road has no doubt presented problems with access, once you take the time to wonder through the store, you begin to realize that Summers has created a space that recalls what the country store of days gone by might have been like. In many ways it is like a flash from the past, a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of shopping in larger stores.
The very first thing you notice when entering is that there is someone ready to offer samples of the fresh fruit available.  On the day I dropped in, that person just happened to be Summers herself.  Handing out carefully cut samples of the fresh fruit available, walking into the store may remind you as much of the stores of the west as it does the types of family owned businesses that once populated the Midwest and Southeast long before chain stores became the rule of the day.
If the friendly service does not immediately strike you, perhaps the two small Pomeranians guarding the store will.  It is touches like these that give the place a charm that much larger chains simply cannot generate, or even begin to offer.  Before you even step into the place, the exterior is an interesting mix of elements that surely will draw you in, if you notice them.
Stone trim and a log cabin flavor make this building distinctive in a place where so many markets are simply metal boxes augmented by sharp edges and glass.  Peppers hanging from the roof, hay in bundles, antlers attached to the walls, wheels, interesting little touches that one would like to see but frequently do not grace the exterior.  Even the signage on the building itself has a nice “down home” look.  Words like “Honey” and “Dried Fruit,” are nestled into the roofline.  Contrasting with the larger bold graphic sign that is visible from the street, the mix of the old with the demands of the new creates a comfortable compromise that weds the two together.
However, the charm of the Fruit Barn is not confined to the carefully cared-for exterior.  When you enter this relaxed world, the first thing that will catch your attention is the neatness of it all.  Not so much as one hair looks out of place.  There are no sticky patches on the floor or clutter.  The many containers of jams, syrups, and other canned items are meticulously positioned. The look is so pristine it is as if you had walked into an interior designer’s perception of what an idealized small business should resemble.  Not only that, the quiet and calm of the place makes it a truly relaxing place to simply be and look. And there is a much to see.
From the in-house products produced by the Fruit Barn to Cactus Candy, there are rows upon rows of colorful labels and containers showcasing produce and products made locally. Jars of syrups, jellies and salad dressing are all on display.  Also available are glasses, plates, t-shirts and an assortment of travel souvenirs neatly arranged next to the produce.
Details apparently count for something here, and the many grapefruits, oranges and other food items are displayed with care. A model of a Calistoga wagon is perched atop a stand that houses cars and other small items. A shingled roof display houses glass containers filled with honey.  Every inch of usable wall space is utilized.  Either products for sale, posters, or peppers are hung in every conceivable location. But this is not a slap dash job.  The placement of everything has that feeling that it was placed with a lot of T.L.C.
For those that want to share the experience, Summers Fruit Barn does handle shipping, and they accept Visa and Mastercard should you wish to share Arizona produced produce with those unable to enjoy them locally. 
While they may not have an online web site, you can mail, fax or phone an order, or you may want to take Summers’ advice and simply, “ Come on down.” 
Summers Fruit Barn
2760 E Baseline Road
Phoenix, AZ 85042
Monday through Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Closed Tuesdays
Phone: 602-243-1408
Fax: 602-243-2814

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