ASHVILLE (AP) — As soon as David Renick spots a stranger headed straight for him, he lumbers away from his John Deere 4020 and the crates of pumpkins and gourds that surround him to extend a work-worn hand for a firm shake.
And then he almost immediately points out what kind of goodies one might find in the building that houses Renick’s Family Market behind him. He is partial to the blackberry and apple pies, and he highly recommends the pumpkin bread. But the goat’s milk fudge? Now, that’s not to be missed.
“I make that myself,” he said with a nod and a grin. “We use real goat milk and Amish butter. Hits the spot.”
And there, standing in the gravel parking lot on the very land where his late parents, Milton and Ruth Renick, opened a modest farmers market in 1959, he said he would leave work on Halloween with no regrets after rolling down those garage doors on their old building at the close of business for the last time. Renick’s — that always-bustling spot along Route 23 in northern Pickaway County where generations of families have taken their children to pick the perfect pumpkin, to get an apple cider slushie, to craft a life-sized scarecrow, to race through the corn maze — was closing for good.
“It is time,” David said simply. He and his wife, Linda, are both 70. They have four grown children and eight grandchildren, and their fifth great-grandchild was making his entrance into this world even as the couple spoke Tuesday about the importance of spending more time with family. They decided at some point in this 10-week season at the market that this would be their last.
“My dad had a favorite saying, ‘It’s better to wear out than to rust out,’” David said.
“And I was starting to rust,” Linda added with a laugh.
Standing inside the market that is practically a museum — antiques and family heirlooms cover every shelf and wall, including Grandma’s canning tins and canister sets and Linda’s father’s fishing gear — Ashley Estep tried to keep it together as she talked about the market closing.
“We’re just one big family,” Estep said, tearing up. “I love the Renicks. They are so special. I can’t imagine them — and this market — not being here. I just can’t.”
Having visited all the time as a child, her first job was running a cash register at the market at age 14. She is 30 now, and returns every season.
Renick’s was pretty much everyone’s first job around there, she said. Boys would generally be put to work in the 30-acre pumpkin patch, planting and hoeing and cutting stems. But then there also was asparagus to harvest and melons to raise and corn to pick and … well, you get the idea. Running the market and tending the acreage that supports it (the family has 500 acres here, and 280 up the road) is a lot of work.
And don’t even get Linda started about the baking. Tuesday afternoon, she and Estep took turns tending to the 28 pumpkin pies baking in the steel ovens in the back.
“We’ve had a lot of fun here, but it’s a lot of work,” said Linda’s best friend, Marty Adams, as she helped a customer choose the right variety of apples. “Dave and Linda? They deserve the break. It’s sad to close, but everyone is so happy for them to get to relax.”
It was difficult for anyone to get anything done Tuesday, as word had spread in the past couple of days that the market would close for good Wednesday. The phone hadn’t stopped ringing, and the parking lot had stayed mostly packed. New customers popped in to look for deals; regulars came by to reminisce.
“People keep saying, ‘We heard a rumor. Is it true?’” Linda said. “And then sometimes when we tell them it is, they cry.”
When asked what will become of the building, David and Linda replied in unison: “We don’t know.” What will they do with all that memorabilia? “We don’t know.”
But they do know this: The memories made here will sustain them. David and Linda each said their hearts are full of gratitude for the love they’ve felt from the customers all these years.
“They’ll have good memories, precious memories,” David said. “And so will we.”