Dink’s Produce is open for business once again – just in time for the holidays – after a devastating fire three months ago, said owner Kathy “Dink” Duncan and her husband, Gene.
It will be months before the store can occupy its former space, but Duncan said when their landlord, J.T. Mitchell, offered them a space next door to get through the holiday season, she couldn’t say no.
“We opened up here because we have a lot of churches and people that depend on us for their Christmas fruits and vegetables and fruit baskets,” she said. “It’s the holiday season, we need to do it.”
Dink’s has set up shop in the restaurant unit next door to their previous location , which was all but destroyed by an electrical fire on Sept. 2. While it’s not as big as their old place at 758 S. Heckle Blvd., it will do until the necessary repairs can be made and equipment can be purchased, the Duncans said.
“We have all our major fruits and vegetables, all our greens, all our dried beans, our ham products, we’ve got all of that back,” she said.
The inside of the store, which is lined with shelves built by the Duncans’ son-in-law Terrence Rayfield, smells just like the old place, like fruit and dirt, with a little bit of mint mixed in from all the Christmas candy.
Other than the freezer section, the Duncans said everything their customers need is there and ready to purchase. Much of what they buy is locally sourced or can only be purchased at country stores, usually for a higher price.
Mary Vu, owner of Mary’s Cafe in Rock Hill, went to Dink’s on Tuesday morning for tomatoes and oranges. She remarked on how all of the prices seemed lower than other grocery stores and said she was very happy Dink’s was open again.
“Are these the only green tomatoes?” she said to Gene Duncan, who told her yes, but promised to call her later in the week when more arrive, a touch of the customer service and personal nature that Vu and fellow customer Kenneth Hyatt said keep them coming back.
While Dink’s was closed after the fire, Hyatt, who lives in Catawba, said he tried shopping at other grocery stores, but they didn’t have the same selection of fresh food, particularly fruits and vegetables.
“I just didn’t like it,” he said.
Dink Duncan said they’ve drawn a lot of their strength through this difficult time from their granddaughter, who’s been battling cancer for the last year.
Sara Duncan, 5, who lives in Blythewood, was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma. At the moment, Dink Duncan said, Sara doesn’t have any tumors and is doing very well. She’s receiving antibody therapy to help her body fight cancer.
But while Sara currently may be winning her fight, the Duncans know there are lots of children who are struggling, so each month, they send whatever money they can to Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. They tell them to give the money to whatever child needs the assistance to afford their treatment or medication.
And it’s not just Sara that inspires the Duncans to work hard at Dink’s. All of their children and grandchildren inspire them to keep the store going, Duncan said.
“We do this for them,” she said. “So they can get an education and have what they need.”
Dink’s Produce has been open since Nov. 21, but the word is just getting out, so customers have been trickling back in slowly, but surely, Duncan said.
“I drove by last night and saw they were here again,” said Rachel Pickett, as she sorted through the bin of sweet potatoes. She came back the very next morning.
Dink’s will remain open with their usual hours in the new location for as long as it takes to repair and refurbish their former location next door. Between construction and replacing equipment, all of which has to be replaced, there’s no timetable on when it might be ready.
“It’ll get done when it gets done,” Duncan said. “Until then, we’ll still be here.”