Longtime Houston farmers market site Canino Produce to close
HOUSTON (AP) — For decades, Ruby Emory has been going to Canino’s to buy cucumbers to make her famous hot pickles.
The Houston Chronicle reports when it’s time to start canning, she goes straight to Tom Krolczyk, one of the store’s longest-serving employees, to find out if the cucumbers are fresh.
“You want good, fresh pickles. If they don’t have them, he’ll tell me what day to come in,” said Emory, 85, a Heights resident who began shopping at the Airline Drive farmers market in the 1960s.
Customers of Canino Produce, the family-owned produce purveyor that’s anchored the Heights-area farmers market for years, are making their final visits to the store, which will close later this month as the septuagenarian owners retire on the eve of the property’s planned redevelopment.
Local shoppers have been lamenting the closing on social media since word began to spread in December of the store’s demise. They’ve told stories of weekly visits with their aging parents, how they would go there as kids, and how they now take out-of-town visitors there to shop the tables of fruits, vegetables and freshly-shelled nuts in the cavernous 1940s warehouse.
Annie Hawkins visits Canino’s a few times a year to buy for all the big holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Hawkins, 62, who retired from the Houston Independent School District, has shopped there since the early 1970s. She recently stopped in for just a few things: potatoes, corn and pecans.
“We hate it,” she said about the closing.
Bill Canino, whose father started the store in 1948, said the business has irrevocably changed from when there were hundreds farms across Harris and adjoining counties that supplied fresh produce to the market. Canino’s cousin, Mark Atkinson of Atkinson Farms, has one of the few farms left. His operation in Spring is surrounded by new housing on every side.
“I’m in the middle of four subdivisions,” he said.
Now, much of the produce comes from Mexico and South America. The pecans are mostly from Texas or Georgia.
The nut business, which is part of what Canino’s is known for, is seasonal. During the last four months of the year, nut sales make up as much as 40 percent of the business. That falls to around 5 percent during summer.
Canino’s is closing Jan. 23. The store at 2520 Airline Drive is the largest retail tenant in the larger market area, but still only occupies a small piece of the nearly 18-acre property. The property was sold in May to a local real estate investment company planning to renovate and update the market to make it more appealing to existing shoppers and new ones.
“If I was younger,” Canino said. “I’m sure I’d stay while they revamp.”
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com