A Doug's Life: There's Always Time for a Roadside Treat

I drive by there every day, glancing over at the little shack in the field as I fly past on Newport Road.

This time, something made me stop. I guess I didn't really need what they were selling, but why not? If nothing else, I could pull out of heavy traffic for a minute and check out some fresh produce.

It's a strawberry stand. You know, the kind of thing you used to see a lot more of around Southern California. We even had some in the San Gabriel Valley back in the day. Now, of course, the strawberry fields there are gone, and you'd have to sell a boatload of berries to afford to lease a piece of land the size of a postage stamp.

But here in Menifee, where there's still considerable open space -- no matter what the critics say -- the strawberry stand in the open grass field didn't really seem out of place.

"How enterprising," was my first thought. One has to have ambition and a bit of patience to make money selling fruit by the side of the road. My second thought: I needed fresh ingredients for my morning protein shake.

Pulling onto the patch of dirt that serves as a parking lot, I got out of my car and walked over to the stand. The only one there was a woman sitting inside in the shade, surrounded by sweet-smelling strawberries.

Her name is Mary Kimball. She sits in that stand every day of the week, from 9 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., or "when we're out of strawberries." She runs the stand for her brother's company, "Bob and Gary's Field Fresh Berries." They have stands in Menifee, Murrieta, Temecula and Hemet.

No strawberry fields, however. The berries are trucked in from Northern California, fresh and juicy.

"Try one," Mary said, gesturing to the row of flats spread out in front of her, overflowing with ripe red berries.

One bite and I was sold. There's something about fresh fruit picked up out in the fresh air, rather than out of a bin in aisle 5. OK, so maybe these berries weren't grown anywhere near here, but for some reason I felt like a kid again, holding my mom's hand as she got personal service from the butcher and the grocer at the corner market.

Oh sure, I can chat with the cashier at the supermarket checkout stand. But how personable is that exchange? I'm busy sliding my debit card and punching buttons while the checker is fumbling with the can of green beans that won't scan. Now that's personal service.

Mary Kimball said she used to work in the escrow business, where she was forced to use a computer at least part of the time. Out there in the strawberry stand, the only electronic gadget she has is a smart phone she barely knows how to use.

"Every day is different out here," she said. "I can sit here for an hour with nobody coming, then four cars will pull in at once. The other day, somebody came along and bought a whole bunch of boxes to make strawberry jam. I have people who've been coming here 15 years."

Bob and Gary's does not use coupons. Their only advertising is a sign at the side of the road. It's business in its simplest form -- something they've been doing in Menifee for 18 years.

"We used to be down the road, where the IHOP is now," Mary said. "When they sold that land, we moved over here. Been here about nine years.

"I like the atmosphere around here. Coming to work here is like coming to something different. We've been here so long, it's like we're part of the town."

You are, Mary. And here's hoping you stay for a long time to come.


  1. Absolutely the best!!!

  2. Thank you for the wonderful story... My husband has been selling berries for 21 years, starting in Temecula. He used to work in the produce dept. at Stater Bros. that is where we met when I was a grocery checker. I am very proud of him! :)

  3. I've seen the stand before and have been tempted to stop but haven't, always in fear I won't have enough cash on me LOL...How much were the strawberries? Thanks ;)

  4. Haven't stopped in a long while, but I think its $12 for 1/2 crate....biggest, sweetest strawberries ever though!