BAKER FLATS — Running a 20-acre orchard and a full-time fruit stand, there was never a shortage of work to keep Edsel Reeves busy. But he always found time to greet his customers at the door with a smile and a sample.
“When my dad opened this business, he always stood at the door with some kind of sample of fruit. He would try to greet everyone who came in the door,” his daughter Brenda Reeves said last week. “Of course he spent a lot of time in the orchard, but he instilled upon us the No. 1 thing is customer satisfaction and kindness.”
Those values helped the B&B Fruit Stand find success soon after it opened in 1963. Then Brenda, her brother Braden Reeves and sister Kim Bryant carried those values forward when their parents passed away in 2008 and 2009.
But after 56 years, this is the family’s last season running the stand off Highway 2/97 in Baker Flats. On Oct. 1 it’ll be sold to the large fruit-packer Northern Fruit Company, Brenda Reeves said.
“Our sole purpose of selling is just our age; it has nothing to do with anything but our age,” she said. “It was just getting to the point where it’s too hard. And we want to do some fun things, we want to travel.”
It’s been a difficult transition for the family, most of whom have worked there at some point, Reeves said.
“We’ve hired other people over the years, but our main core is family,” she said. “... When we were out of school in the summer, we always had a job in the orchard. We always had to work for everything. We paid for our school clothes by thinning the apples. Anything we could do, we did.”
The stand actually started a few miles away from its current location, Reeves said.
“We started it up the road about three miles,” she said. “It was a tiny little stand; all we had was a little round table with fruit on it.”
Then in 1971, her parents purchased a 20-acre orchard and built a fruit stand next to the highway. It’s been there ever since.
They used to grow apples and pears, but Reeves’ father took them out years ago, she said. Now they just grow soft fruit: nectarines, peaches, cherries, apricots and plums.
“He always said, ‘Soft fruit is going to be what people want in a fruit stand,’” she said. “So, we buy a lot of fruit from local farmers. A lot.”
For the most part, the family has operated the B&B Fruit Stand — named for Brenda and Braden — the same way for decades, Reeves said. But there have been a few key changes: Upgrading to a Square point-of-sale system has made a big difference.
“We used to take an extremely large amount of personal checks,” she said. “Now, we get hardly any because we’re set up with our Square and internet. The changes have been unbelievable.”
It prevented a problem that the family used to solve with an envelope and trust.
“We used to, when somebody would be short on money and couldn’t buy their purchase, we would give them a stamped envelope with our address on it,” Reeves said. “We’d tell them to just take the fruit and send the check later.”
Their focus on customer satisfaction has built incredible loyalty over the years, Reeves said.
“We have some customers that have been coming here ever since we opened and they can hardly get out of their cars due to their age,” she said. “And their kids and grandkids are coming and we’ve even taught some of the younger generation how to can (fruit).”
Northern Fruit is expected to keep running the stand once the family passes on the reins, Reeves said. The family stand will close once they run out of fruit this fall, which usually happens in the first or second week of October.
Then, after a breath, they hope to do some traveling. “I’d kind of like to do an Alaska cruise,” Reeves said.