How Me & McGee Market outgrew its roadside stand and located a way of goal

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Earlier than Me & McGee Market was a flourishing farmers market that includes recent produce, native pastured-raised meats and an unlimited assortment of artisanal items, it was a easy pecan stand arrange alongside the highway on the finish of Larry and Debbie McGee’s driveway off Freeway 70 in North Little Rock. 9 massive pecan bushes shade the McGee’s property, and in 2011, Debbie McGee, a retired meals service employee, devised a plan to utilize the plentiful provide of pecans.

“My grandma wished to collect pecans, shell them and ship my grandpa down the highway to arrange and promote them,” stated McGee’s grandson and working companion Logan Duvall. His grandpa Larry McGee, a former salesman, didn’t suppose a lot of the concept at first. “He thought she was completely loopy,” Duvall stated. Larry McGee realized there was one thing to it, Duvall stated, after he made a pair hundred {dollars} promoting pecans.

The preliminary stand sat down by the highway till a scorching day in July when Larry McGee hooked it as much as a truck and pulled it again to the east facet of the property beneath the shade of a pecan tree. The next yr, the McGees put in a little bit backyard and other people began pulling in questioning what produce they’d out there. “So my mother recommended that they purchase a little bit stand and begin promoting stuff. Every thing else has simply been natural, year-after-year development,” Duvall stated.

It was a pastime they beloved and a manner for the McGees to make a little bit more money throughout retirement, Duvall stated. Along with the pecans and produce, the McGees began making jams and breads. Duvall’s mom, Neva Collier, received concerned within the operation after Larry McGee was identified with terminal most cancers. Collier labored full time at Acxiom in Conway and would come down on the weekends to assist out. As Larry’s illness progressed and together with her mom Debbie by her husband’s facet, Collier ultimately left her job at Acxiom to be there for the McGees and run the stand with assist from her daughter Ariel Newman.

Larry McGee died in September of 2016. Quickly after, Duvall left his job as an emergency medical technician and actual property agent and relocated from Atkins (Pope County) to Central Arkansas to turn into an working companion at Me & McGee Market alongside his grandmother Debbie McGee, mom Neva Collier and sister Ariel Newman.

“I simply wished to assist the household transition from shedding my grandpa to taking the subsequent step with the enterprise to verify it took care of the household as a result of it was my grandma’s retirement,” Duvall stated.

The household began placing photographs of the market on Fb and interacting with folks on social media.

“That began bringing in new those that weren’t simply touring up and down [Highway] 70,” Duvall stated.

Me and McGee’s social media presence has continued to evolve, and Duvall is a well-known face to its followers and customers. He hosts common video updates highlighting what’s in inventory or new on the market and seems in high-quality manufacturing movies that characteristic native cooks and dieticians providing recipes or highlighting the well being advantages of sure greens or diets. There are movies on juicing, kombucha, cryotherapy and the keto food plan. They take instructional discipline journeys to go to the farms that provide the market with produce, honey or grass-fed beef. The movies are produced and edited by Patrick Inexperienced, an Emmy award-winner who produced content material for way of life skilled P. Allen Smith for the final decade.

Additionally comparatively new to the market is “Lander’s Nook,” a up to date blue shed stocked with a wide range of well being meals and dietary supplements. In the summertime of 2019, Duvall’s 5-year-old son Lander was identified with most cancers.

“He was identified stage IV,” Duvall stated. “So it began in his kidney and had gone to lymph nodes to his chest wall. Stage IV analysis for a child that you simply didn’t suppose something was incorrect with. It was actually a giant jolt.”

Along with Lander’s therapy at Arkansas Kids’s Hospital, which concerned chemotherapy, radiation and surgical procedure, Duvall began researching useful diets for folks and youngsters preventing most cancers.

“I simply dove into the analysis of what I may do, . You simply really feel so helpless in that scenario. There’s no actual strategy to clarify it; it’s simply such a helpless, horrible feeling. So I wished to determine what I may management, and I knew that no less than at a minimal I may management what he eats.”

When Duvall discovered one thing he was assured in, he’d order it and check out it out. If it helped Lander they usually beloved it, he wished to make it out there for folks visiting the market as effectively.

The muse of their plan, Duvall stated, was slicing out processed meals, sugar and dairy merchandise and specializing in greens, together with some high-quality meats and fish wealthy with omega-3 fatty acids.

Courtesy of Me & McGee Market
Duvall and son Lander.

“After I’m engaged on all of this, it’s like this huge net of interconnected issues, and typically it’s actually laborious for anyone else to see the way it’s associated,” Duvall stated. “However regenerative agriculture and elevating animals correctly which can be grass-fed is a giant deal from the well being facet of it, in addition to from all the opposite[s]. Whether or not it’s for the atmosphere or political causes, it advantages every thing.”

It’s for that motive, Duvall stated, that he’s so keen about increase farmers who’re doing it proper.

“That’s such a giant a part of what we do now as a result of shedding my grandpa to most cancers, having a toddler that was identified … So the food plan, vitamin, dietary supplements, , God, Kids’s Hospital, all of it matter. In order that’s an enormous a part of my focus is that fixed analysis and creating consciousness to share with folks — not shove it down anyone’s throat — however simply say, ‘These are some choices if you wish to attempt which have benefited us.’ ”

Inside eight months of being identified, Lander was cancer-free. He obtained clear scans in February of 2020. A few month later, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

“We didn’t have any thought what to do,” Duvall stated. “None of us did. I knew we needed to defend the those that had been immunocompromised, whether or not it was older [people] or my baby. So we initially shut down and went to pick-up solely.”

It didn’t go effectively. With out enough staffing or a system in place to accommodate on-line ordering, Duvall stated they needed to decide to both shut down fully or open up.

“And so we opened up and it wasn’t even negotiable, sporting masks. It was the least we felt we may do.”

Nonetheless, there was lots of pushback on the masks coverage at first.

“Folks had been horrible,” he stated. “And so I ended up making a pair totally different posts on Fb about it and [there was] lots of assist, actually. The masks coverage was really a giant enhance as a result of at the moment, we had been one of many solely ones that had been requiring it and never backing down from it. I guess I kicked out 10 folks proper out of the gate. However that led to a few information interviews and even getting picked up nationally. In order that publicity led to some extra ugliness, however it additionally boosted enterprise too.

“My household was going to get taken care of, and I’d fairly have a spot for folks to buy and really feel protected than earn cash,” Duvall stated. 

Within the early months of the pandemic, there was lots of worry about even stepping contained in the grocery retailer. A pal of mine talked about to me again within the spring of 2020 that the one place she would store is Me & McGee Market as a result of it was exterior and masks had been required. Duvall stated there have been lots of people who felt that manner.

“And due to Lander’s story and me being so open, we have now such a big share of individuals with most cancers, folks overcoming most cancers and present process remedies that observe us, and we’re the one place they might go. In order that was another excuse why I used to be completely unwilling to waver on that.”

I went Christmas buying twice at Me & McGee Market final winter. It grew to become obvious nearly instantly that I used to be in a pleasant place. I used to be greeted by each Duvall and Collier, neither of whom I had met but. After I was standing in line to take a look at, Duvall walked by and put some free toffee in my basket to associate with the improbable sideboard cookies baked by Debbie.

Some new additions to Me & McGee Marketplace for the 2021 season embody partnering with chef Josh Smith of the Southern Normal meals truck, which will likely be completely situated at Me & McGee in the course of the market’s open hours.

“Every thing on the truck is sourced from issues on the market,” Duvall stated.

The meat is sourced from Hoien Farms in Atkins (Pope County) and Forevermost Farms in Rose Bud (White County). The bread is from Serenity Farm Bread in Leslie (Searcy County).

Brian Chilson
Chef Josh Smith of Southern Normal

As well as, parking has been expanded and new scanners have been added that can assist streamline trying out on the counters. Duvall has additionally been nominated for the 2021 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Man of the Yr” award, and hosts blood drives and fundraisers to learn most cancers analysis. There may be an upcoming blood drive on the market on Friday, Might 7.

“I would like to have the ability to purchase from locals, resell it and take the proceeds for the fundraising side of it, and I really feel like extra folks win that manner,” he stated. “And the blood drives — Lander needed to get blood after chemo simply zapped him as soon as and it was a giant huge deal. … We simply wish to assist folks, man.”

Duvall instructed me there’s a Maya Angelou quote on a board on the market that claims, “Folks will neglect what you say, folks will neglect what you do however folks will always remember the way you make them really feel.’ ”

“That’s our complete philosophy,” Duvall stated. “The gross sales and the opposite takes care of itself in the event you simply care for folks and make them really feel good.”

Take a look at Me & McGee’s Fb web page for market updates, stock and academic movies.

Me and McGee Market
10409 Freeway 70, North Little Rock
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thu.-Fri.; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Solar.
501-355-6222

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