Hidden Gems: Me & McGee Market
June 17-23, 2019
By Amber Davis
A small gem sits on Highway 70 in North Little Rock, just past the Ben E. Keith facility. Me & McGee Market is a roadside stand making its mark on the food community in central Arkansas.
The produce stand, stacked high with colorful vegetables and fruits, is the focal point of the Market. But visitors soon notice they’re surrounded by pecan trees. Logan Duvall, one of the owners of Me & McGee, reports that many of the pecan trees are more than 100 years old.
In 2011, Debbie McGee had the idea to sell the pecans. She would collect the pecans, crack and shell them, then her husband, Larry McGee, would sit on the side of the road in his pickup truck to sell the nuts. Larry was skeptical about this business plan at first, but he went along with it. The McGees’ initial goal was to make a bit of spending money for retirement. Debbie came up with the name “Me & McGee Market” as a nod to the Janis Joplin tune “Me and Bobby McGee.”
The McGees decided in 2012 to plant a small garden beside their house as a hobby, and as a way to spend time together and with the rest of the family. Soon, people traveling down Highway 70 started knocking on their door, asking to buy some of the produce from their garden. The McGees realized this could supplement their income even more, so they agreed to sell some of their harvest of corn, potatoes, and other produce.
By 2013 the couple built a cedar produce stand at the end of their driveway, and the market officially began. Demand quickly outpaced the supply from the couple’s garden. Larry started bringing in produce from other farms in the area, and the couple started making pickles and salsa to sell alongside that produce. Although they no longer make the salsa and pickles, Me & McGee Market has grown exponentially since 2013, and now consists of that produce stand, along with a market building and a pavilion in final stages of construction.
Me & McGee Market has always been a true family endeavor, now more than ever. Neva Collier, Debbie’s daughter, has helped with the stand since it opened in 2013. Neva honed her photography skills and created social media accounts for the market to publicize the business.
Shortly after the stand opened, Larry was diagnosed with cancer. Neva and her husband moved from Maumelle to North Little Rock in 2014 to provide extra care for Larry and to make sure Me & McGee Market would survive. In 2015, Neva quit her job of 16 years as a team leader at a large Little Rock company to run the market full time. One of the biggest challenges has been the amount of time and work it takes to keep the market going. “You have to have a lot of self-discipline to have your own business. If you’re given out and something needs to be done, you just have to do it anyway,” Neva said.
Larry passed away on Sept. 11, 2016. The family again rallied around one another, and Logan, Neva’s son, moved to central Arkansas from Atkins in 2017 to help expand Me & McGee market. Logan says that business at the market has increase substantially over the last two years. Three generations – Debbie, Neva, and Logan – own the market together now. Neva’s daughter, Ariel Newman, also works at the stand between college classes.
All four of them bring something to the market to make it special. Logan took over the social media, which he says is the biggest factor in the market’s growth. Logan says that his grandmother Debbie “always gets things done. She is the matriarch who leads us.” Neva created and cultivates the physical environment around the stand, and Logan said, “She kills it at making people feel comfortable.” Logan classifies Ariel as a very hard worker and said, “She’s a huge part of the market; we couldn’t do this without Ariel.”
Although there have been challenges to running the market, there are also huge rewards. “We have made lifelong friends here. It’s enjoyable and gratifying seeing that we’ve done something,” said Neva.
The market’s primary goal is to ensure a special trip for all of the customers. “First and foremost, we want our customers to have a good experience. We want people to come out here and enjoy their time and just take a breath,” Logan said.
One way the family does this is by cultivating a beautiful space. There are colorful flowers and beautiful produce everywhere. A small but delightful flock of ducks waddles through the area from time to time, and those century-old pecan trees provide shade. Logan also emphasized the importance of learning visitors’ names and speaking only with positivity, especially when communicating with the visitors.
Customers at the market regularly tell Ariel, Neva and Logan about growing up and watching their grandparents cook, can or make candy. The market not only provides a place to shop, it provides a space for remembering the past. “These memories, conversations and relationships are precious, and we cannot express enough how much it means for people to share with us,” said Logan.
Once customers arrive at Me & McGee Market, they can buy a huge variety of items. Many of these items are made or grown in Arkansas. “We want to create a community to bring local sellers together,” said Logan. Produce makes up approximately 40 percent of the stand’s sales, but there are plenty of other products inside the market. Visitors can buy perennials cultivated in Mayflower. The market carries products from Fennel and Fire, which is a company based in Roland, Arkansas, that makes spice mixes, including herbed sea salt and Citrus Peppercorn.
Debbie makes baked goods every week, ranging from bread to fried pies to cookies. They also make and sell jams, such as peach cobbler and triple berry. Customers can even buy bison and elk meat from Ratchford Farms in Marshall. Visitors will find honey from an apiary in Scott, and kombucha from a producer in Little Rock. Robbi’s Salsa, based in Little Rock, replaced the salsa that Debbie used to make. The market sells other products as well, including pottery, greeting cards, coffee and hot sauce. In the fall, customers can still buy pecans that fall from the trees in the market.
Although the focus on Arkansas products has been positive for the business, in order to be sustainable, they do sell some items that were not made in the state, such as some pickles and other canned goods from an Amish producer in Missouri. “Our first goal is to sell something made or grown from within five miles of the stand. If we can’t get that, we’ll go progressively farther, as long as the product meets our standards,” said Logan. He also pointed out that they are always transparent about whether a product was grown or made in Arkansas.
The newest endeavor for the family has been establishing a foundation in Larry’s honor called the Larry McGee Foundation. The money that the foundation raises will be used to take some of the burden off of caregivers. “By helping the caregivers, you help the patient,” Logan pointed out.
As for the future of Me & McGee Market, Logan said, “We’re just going to keep getting better at what we’re doing. We are constantly asking ourselves what can we do that will make people enjoy themselves and want to come back.”
Me & McGee Market is located at 10409 Highway 70 in North Little Rock. The market is open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. v
Step back in time along Highway 70 in North Little Rock at McGee Market. A family endeavor through and through, this little stand offers everything including fresh produce, locally cultivated plants, honey, salsa, baked goods and more. (Photos by Becca Bona)