About 8 a.m., you can see his pick-up truck coming home, edging along the curb in front of Sylacauga’s Mill Village Curb Market. Cars are already lined up and ladies with purses in hand, along with a few men, head for the door of the market.
After a little while, Ronnie and his helpers have unloaded the fresh fruit and vegetables brought from the big Farmer’s Market in Birmingham. There are bushel baskets filled with corn, peas, beans, cucumbers, squash and a variety of fresh fruit. The ladies who have been waiting scramble to get the pick of the day’s offerings.
All day long, there’s a steady stream of cars in and out of the little market on Tuskegee Street, because those who came early go home and call their friends to tell them what’s especially pretty on any certain day.
Ronnie loves it and says he wouldn’t have his life any other way.
Ronnie worked for Avondale Mills until it shut down and then about five years ago, he decided to open the produce stand.
He was living in Childersburg with his family at the time, and was looking for a place in the village. There was a vacant lot beside his mother, Emma Robbins, and he bought it. The produce stand was put up on the lot. Ronnie bought a house in the village, and finally he felt he had set the family up pretty well.
“That’s when I really began enjoying my new career,” he said.
“I’ve always loved talking to people and I had a steady stream every day to greet and chat with.”
Ronnie had lived in the mill village as a child, and he really felt like he was coming back home.
But it didn’t take him long to realize a lot of the “good, mill folk” had been replaced by some “not so desirable neighbors.”
But this never deterred Ronnie from his plans for the produce stand. He has always – from the first day – brought fresh veggies and fruit to Sylacauga.
“The village is really in disarray right now. The only thing it has going for it is beautiful Comer School, and I hope most folks think that about the produce stand,” he said.
His sister-in-law, Karen Rushing, designs and makes outdoor furniture and there’s always a display of her creations around the curb market.
His mom, Emma Rushing, sits on her screened front porch next door and shells peas and butterbeans most of the day.
These are a special offering at the market for busy housewives who have no time for that task.
“There are so many friends here in the village that come and visit us during the day,” she said. “They help me try to keep all the garbage picked up around this area, and I always hope and pray people who have property in the village will start to take pride and care for it. It’s a shame they can’t see what they are doing to this area.”
Ronnie is not alone.
He has more people supporting him than he thought he did.
A committee has been formed to try to clean up the village and make it presentable for application to the Historical Register.
The little rows of houses were built before World War II, and have all the qualifications for the membership of distinction, except for the owners who allow their property to be abused.
“I hope to see the day this village is brought back to life and the people who love it will take care of it,” Ronnie said. “I’m certainly not going to stop every effort I can to see that happen.”
Life is good for Ronnie Rushing and he believes it’s because he is where God wants him to be.
“I see so many fine folks from all over town every week, and it really does my heart good to know I am providing something for them that gives the whole family pleasure,” he said.
Business keeps going up and up for Ronnie, and now he is furnishing fresh vegetables for some of the local restaurants.
He’s even opened another produce stand in Stewartville.
He will be quick to tell you, his favorite folks are the locals who drive down to Tuskegee Street in the Mill Village for a basket of fresh vegetables and fruit from the Mill Village Produce Stand, and as soon as he’s had time to get acquainted with his new customers in Stewartville, they will become favorites too.
Come fall, Ronnie says the produce stand will announce the arrival of hundreds of pounds of fresh Mississippi Red sweet potatoes, as well as fish bait of all kinds.
“I want be here year round and whatever the season calls for, I hope I will be able to offer it,” he said.