Rorer’s Produce, a mainstay on Route 1 for more than three decades, will be closing at the end of the month.
Owner Kenny Rorer, who has run the market and produce stand at 8515 Richmond Highway since 1984, is retiring after a career that stretches back to his teen years, when he helped his father grow fruits and vegetables.
Rorer’s first produce stand was located on Backlick Road, but he’s spent most of his life on the highway. He purchased the store on Route 1 from another grocer, and built Rorer’s into place known for quality produce and friendly service.
Unlike some produce markets, Rorer’s was open year-round, a go-to place for roses on Valentine’s Day, flowers in the early spring, and — most famously — fresh produce from the spring to the fall. He’s quick to credit his employees for helping maintain the store’s reputation for friendly customer service, including his two current full-time workers, brothers Melvin and Elmer Bonilla.
Rorer isn’t sure what his last day will be, but the stand will be open at least through Christmas Eve. As his business winds down, Rorer’s is still selling Christmas trees, firewood and produce.
“I won’t miss Route 1,” Rorer said with a laugh, as traffic flew by on a recent afternoon. “But I will miss my customers. I will miss my employees.”
Rorer said many reasons nudged him towards retirement, including the upcoming widening of Route 1 from Jeff Todd Way to Napper Road, a project that will almost certainly take away the storefront’s parking lot. But the primary reason for getting out now, Rorer said, was the death of his wife two years ago.
Rorer and Marsha Jarvis were a couple for 20 years, and married for the last five after she got sick. Jarvis herself was in the produce business, running a stand on Route 1 near Telegraph Road from 1987-2001 — until a road widening project forced her to close.
“Greatest lady in the world,” Rorer said of his wife. “She’d light up a room. Always a smile on her face. Had a good word for everyone but the devil.”
The loss of his wife meant Rorer had even more work and less time to spend with his three grandchildren, helping to hasten his decision to retire.
Rorer says his favorite part of being in business was interacting with customers, and on a recent Sunday afternoon it was easy to see why. Rorer kept his eyes out for anyone walking on the lot, helping with questions, giving them space when need be and effortlessly striking up conversations with strangers and familiar customers alike.
“Sometimes I can’t get any work done,” Rorer said. “I enjoy talking as much as they do.”
One customer opened up to Rorer about a home she’d lost to Hurricane Harvey this summer, starting a wide-ranging discussion that didn’t end until another customer entered the store.
“This is what I’ll miss,” Rorer said afterward. “That’s what made it so much fun for 35 years.”