Ken’s Fruit Market on Planfield Avenue suffered through a fire just over a year ago but reopened in April. Photo by Danielle Nelson
(As seen on WZZM TV 13) A year after a fire swept through a local fruit market, it is rising from the ashes.
The Ken’s Fruit Market at Plainfield Avenue, one of three market properties in the Grand Rapids area, was set ablaze September 2016. The fire caused more than $1 million in damages, but the 18,000-square-foot building was rebuilt, reopened in April and, now, business is thriving.
Alex Courts, who is the owner of the fruit market alongside his father Ken Courts and his mother Gina Courts, said sales have increased since the store reopened five months ago.
“We have probably a 30 percent increase in business since we have reopened,” Alex Courts said.
Before the fire, less than 500 shoppers visited that location per day, according to Courts, but now, more than 600 shoppers visit the Plainfield location.
Brad Padget, the store manager, said he noticed the increase from the day the doors were opened. People lined up outside before 7 a.m. to be the first shoppers inside. There is a mixture of new and longtime shoppers who purchase items daily, but he credits the boost in shoppers to people who missed having a small and local store.
“Your only choice was to go shop at Meijer (when the store was closed),” Padget said. “I am not knocking Meijer, but people want to grab and go and not walk a 5-acre store. Here you have cashiers; you don't have to check yourself out. People like that type of stuff.
“Sometimes I would see the same person three to four times in a day. A lot of the times they buy what they need daily instead of stocking up a full cart.”
In addition to having a smaller store, the Plainfield location has a unique selection of items that have attracted more shoppers. Instead of only selling the usual fruits, vegetables and meat, the store added an array of candies from green apple taffy to Neapolitan taffy.
Nuts were added to the shelves, like cashews and dark chocolate pistachios. Cornmeal and lentils can be found, as well. Padget said even old items that were sold in the ’80s, like Clearly Canadian, are re-emerging.
Although some shoppers went to the other two locations across town when the store was closed for seven months, Alex Courts admitted the company lost sales, considering the Plainfield location brought in 40 percent of the business sales. Courts said the company generally has an annual revenue mark of $5 million.
Some people decided to shop at other food outlets like Michelle Wang, who lives two minutes away from the fruit market.
“I would go to Meijer,” Wang said. “(Now that the store has reopened) the difference is the prices are a little bit higher, but I will still shop here.”
Despite a 20-minute drive from Sparta, Wendy Bronkema has been shopping at the Fruit Market for five years, and she said she continues because of the store’s fresh vegetable and meat selections, especially in the offseason when the fresh vegetables aren’t readily available everywhere. So when the store was closed, Bronkema was forced to shop elsewhere.
“I was really sad when the fire happened because it took a really long time to rebuild, and there are not a lot of other options,” Bronkema said. “I would go to Aldi a lot, but they just don't have a fresh meat counter, so there weren’t many options that way. I love Aldi, but I like this place for the local feel, and now that it is open, it is more spacious and it is better laid out. Everything good that was is still (here), they are just trying to add a little bit more to it.”