The minute I stepped inside Banana Jack’s Fresh Market in Genoa Township, I felt like it was indeed possible to go back home again.
You see, when I was growing up in East Detoit (now known as Eastpointe), I often shopped with my mom at Pete & Frank’s Fruit Ranch, a huge and amazing produce shop at Nine Mile and Kelly roads.
Shopping at Pete & Frank’s was always an experience. The place always bustled with shoppers perusing aisle after aisle of beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables and plants.
There was a decidedly social aspect to shopping there as well: We’d bump into neighbors and friends, and the air was always full of the sound of people chatting.
But I’ve not shopped in my old neighborhood for years, and I’ve not come across a similar market in all my years in Livingston County.
I finally stopped in at Banana Jack’s, which is located at 1420 Lawson Drive, in the same shopping center as Kohl’s, just west of the Lake Chemung/I-96 entrance, about a half-mile east of Latson Road.
In 2008, Banana Jack’s operated an open-air market under a tent in the Grand River Avenue parking lot of the former Steve Brown’s Used; the Howell City Council had granted it a special one-year license.
I liked the produce and plants they carried back then, so I anticipated the new store to be great.
It was all that and more.
The market actually captured the shopping zen of the Pete & Frank’s of my childhood. Customers chatted with each other as they shopped, and owner Mancuso, who lives in Genoa Township, was out and about, stocking shelves, straightening produce and answering questions. The atmosphere was casual, fun and friendly.
But the store isn’t just about a pleasant shopping “experience.”
The selection and prices were good, too. I found things I don’t usually find in my shopping circle, items like organic arugula that I’ll use for dinner tonight, and a pomegranate to use in my homemade salad dressing. There were persimmons and tiny pears, Brussels sprout trees and green cabbages bigger than my head.
Mancuso said he’s excited to have the new market open.
“Business has been great,” he said. “Everyone says the same thing. The products are superior and the prices are good.”
The original plan after Banana Jack’s success at the outdoor location in Howell was to open an indoor market inside the Steve Brown’s Used Cars building, but the site wasn’t ideal.
Mancuso searched until he decided on the current location, perfect because it’s right where he wants to be: “Halfway between Brighton and Howell,” he said.
He’s excited, too, about the coming Latson Road/I-96 interchange, which should be open in 2012.
Banana Jack’s is a division of Mancuso Produce, a family-run company in the produce business for over seven decades.
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