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With longer days and temps on the rise, many are wondering where to get vegetable plants and seeds to start their gardens. Mark and Liz Whidden would love to help you with your spring veggie plans at 7752 1st AVE N in East Lake.
The Whiddens purchased Massey Mercantile from the Massey family in 2001, in its original location in downtown Birmingham. They stayed for a couple of years, then moved four miles east to their present location, into the building where Liz’s family had operated an Italian delicatessen for years.
Massey’s carries garden supplies, including seeds, vegetable plants, fertilizers and pesticides, poultry and other domestic animal feed, bulk candies and dog food and supplies for family pets. Mark explains that dog food and pet supplies are the backbone of their sales, but that the spring planting season “Is our Christmas!”
Mark and Liz keep a window box garden of greens going year round. Mr. Whidden shared, “A ninety-year-old lady came by on the weekend and I cut her a whole bag of turnip greens. That cold weather we had a couple of weeks ago was good for them.”
The Whiddens are proud of the heirloom varieties of beans, peas, tomatoes, greens and watermelons they carry. Where else can you buy garden vegetable seeds by the ounce or even 1/4 ounce for delicate mustard green seeds? Rows of carefully hand-labelled jars with names like Specked Dixie Butterbeans and Zipper Cream Southern Peas line wooden shelves at the front of the store. Mark carefully measures out orders for each customer on a scale that’s much older than its current owners.
Greens aren’t the only things they give away. When asked what they’d like people to know about them and their store, it’s that they love helping people. They keep a barrel of small backpacks filled with supplies to give to the homeless who stop by from time to time. A neurologist friend of theirs comes by once a year to stock up on seeds to take on mission to Kenya. He took thirty-three pounds of vegetable seeds, as a gift from the Whiddens, on his latest trip! Liz even gives away seeds to local schools for their vegetable gardens.
The hardest thing about owning their own business is that they only get off on Sundays. But the best thing, says Liz, is “I love people! If the Lord puts it on my heart to help someone, I can. If I see an older lady counting out her coins and looking worried, it’s so nice to be able to say, ‘You just take that!'”
Visit Massey Mercantile’s Facebook page for store info: https://www.facebook.com/Massey-Mercantile-LLC-145704202106733/