GRANGER TWP. — It is a high-tech gotcha for a low-tech operation. Susan Gray, the owner of Susan’s Garden Roadside Stand at 2000 Wilbur Road, said the ease of running a business out of her home and still — for the most part — using the honor system to conduct some sales has its downfalls.
Stealing is one.
But she has started using tech to keep folks honest.
On Sunday, Gray said footage from a ring floodlight camera captured a woman taking $64 worth of product from her stand. Just $20 was left in the cashbox. She posted a message to a Facebook page asking the unidentified woman not to return.
She didn’t name the woman in an attempt to shame her, but said it’s the kind of petty offense she cannot tolerate.
“When we first had the stand, I noticed some theft,” Gray said Monday. “Maybe it’s a tomato, maybe it’s a cucumber, you know, but I knew that the stand was reduced, but there wasn’t money in the box.
Once Gray opened a gift shop a few years back to expand her business, she said she installed the camera to help keep an eye on things in the hopes that it would keep people honest.
“I didn’t put it there to catch somebody and prosecute them,” she said. “I did it as a deterrent.”
There are many roadside farm stands in Medina County and while the offerings are different, the owners want customers to know the same thing: It’s a business and taking the inventory is stealing.
Ed Bowers, the owner of Bowers Farms, located at 6440 Ryan Road, said he has also seen some theft at his stand over the years.
“People will come in and take things,” Bowers said.
“Going back, I don’t know probably it’s eight or 10 years ago, I had roughly $1,700 worth of stuff down here and we came down at the end of the day to empty the (cash) box out and there was $176 in there.
“They walked away with I can’t even tell you how many dozens of sweet corn, tomatoes, onions. They just walked with everything they could walk with.”
This led Bowers to close down his stand for several years but, after receiving calls from residents and regular customers, Bowers reopened and is still going strong today.
“We’re watching the place, let’s put it that way,” Bowers said. “You’re gonna lose a few, you can’t help that. I would say that 99 percent of our people are good people. It would be a real slim margin of people who come in and take stuff.”
Bowers said the stand has a family connection. His father bought the lot that houses Bowers Farm in 1930. Ed and his wife, Lafayette Township Trustee Lynda Bowers, started the stand about 25 years ago.
“It started with 19 tomato plants,” Bower said. “I grew them and I kept trying to make the plants better, produce more tomatoes. About the third year of it, I got a good formula down and I filled my wife’s kitchen and all of our counters with tomatoes three times.”
He set up a table on the corner of his property by the road and sold the tomatoes for $2.50 a quart and they were gone with in an hour or so.
The From The Water’s Edge farm stand, a self-serve 24/7 farm stand at 798 N. Medina Line Road, Granger Township, may be a simple operation, but Carol Cunkle said Monday that it keeps her and her husband, James Cunkle, busy. They also use the honor system, believing if they provide what their customers want, people will be willing to pay.
“We do have some problems from time-to-time, but nothing that encourages us to stop,” she said. “We live in a nice neighborhood and we have good customers for the most part.”
It’s been at least 10 years of work for the Cunkles, a business that started on a whim after they decided to raise chickens as a post-retirement hobby.
“We got some chickens and the next thing we knew we had more eggs than we could eat,” Cunkle said. “After six months, we put a sign up that said ‘fresh brown eggs’ and people started buying them. It surprised the heck out of me. Then, I baked an apple pie and put that out. It was gone.
“That really surprised me.”
Now, the Cunkles have bees, baked goods and produce including morel mushrooms when in season.
Carol Cunkle said they know everything that comes and goes.
“My husband, he knows when something has been taken. He keeps an eye on it,” she said. “A couple times we actually caught people stealing, but it doesn’t happen often. They usually just get a way.”
Cunkle said the stand is just a small business that is a labor of love.
“We treat our customers well and they treat us well. I have met many of them over the years,” she said. “I don’t know what it is. Maybe our life is so complicated and technological and maybe this just reminds them of something that’s not.
“Maybe it takes them back to an earlier time.”
The level of customer service offered at Gray’s road side stand also is a throwback to days past with a twist that keeps everyone honest.
“I love my customers,” Gray said. “If I’m home, I go out and talk to them. If I’m not they leave me money, they leave me notes. It’s wonderful.”