Bottomfeeder: Mango Italiano

It’s all Dean Martin all the time for one fruit-stand survivor.

Whither the fruit stand? With the rise of neighborhood farmers markets and the increased savvy of grocery-store produce departments, it's a retail relic that's no longer necessary, like a home video projector or a push mower. But just because something's not necessary doesn't necessarily mean it's doomed to extinction.Two of Seattle's surviving fruit stands (technically produce stands, as vegetables are shelved as well) are Rising Sun Farms in Roosevelt and Tony's Market in West Seattle, whose continued existence depends almost solely on their customers' willingness to make an unnecessary stop amid their shopping rounds. (Pike Place Market is in a category unto itself, given its historic tourist-destination status.) While Rising Sun occupies a prime bit of real estate in its neighborhood's commercial center, Tony's is way off the beaten path in a section of the city that's off the beaten path to begin with. Thus, the deck against Tony's is stacked a good deal higher.Yet despite its dinosaur status and a shitty economy, business is booming at Tony's, which sits on a gravel parking lot at a corner of 35th and Barton that's near about nothing. A fixture for 18 years on 148th Street in Burien, Tony's moved to West Seattle after its namesake owner, Tony Genzale, sold the Burien property to Walgreens. Genzale's son, Joey, says his dad "loves West Seattle. So many people make the extra stop to shop here. Our customers are so loyal, thank God."Both Genzales rise at 5 a.m. every morning to hit up various well-cultivated sources for the deal of the day, reflected in prices which, if they're not the lowest in the city, are damn close. "My dad has so many different sources; all the local farmers know him," says Joey. "Whenever there's a special on something, he's the one who gets the first phone call. He's built such good relationships with warehouses and local farmers. [They] drive us a good bargain, and boom: less overhead and a cheaper price. Or a lot of times, Costco and the grocery stores over-order, and instead of it going to waste, we get it for a good bargain."Another thing about Tony's is the music—all Dean Martin, almost all the time; and when it's not Dino, it's Sinatra. Dino—given name: Dino Crocetti—is "the man" to Tony, says Joey, who adds: "All the customers, they get into it. It's just a different experience here."

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow