By Mike Avitt
It's taken me years to find the information I wanted for this article. I believe the pictured building sat between TEK Builders and Dr. Crain's office on the south side of the alley. The photo comes from the Lenore Saltzman picture album which is now in the care of the town of Delphos and I thank them for sharing.
Produce houses were very common after the railroad came to Mount Ayr in 1879. And grocery stores often took cream, eggs, and poultry in exchange for groceries until World War II.
Mount Ayr's most porlific and successful produce man was Billie Finch. The first time I see his name in the Mount Ayr Record-News is July 23, 1919 when he replaced Ralph King as manager of Humphrey Produce. Humphrey Produce was headquartered in Humeston, Iowa, and had their Mount Ayr location in the south room of Charles Teale's implement building (202 S. Taylor). In January 1920 the business moved to 107 S. Fillmore on the west side of the square.
By 1927, Billie and his father had started their own business called W. N. Finch & Son. A fire in September of that year forces the
business to relocate temporarily to the former Walker Produce house on North Fillmore Street. I believe it was soon after this that Bille would located to 115 East Madison where he would remain until 1961. The building at 115 East Madison was built in 1916 as a produce house by Frank Chance. Mr. Chance's previous wood-frame produce house, on the same lot, had burned a year or two earlier. The new structure was a block building 40 feet by 44 feet. Billie extended the building in 1938 with a 40 X 50 addition on the back side. The building still stands today and is located across the alley east of Lefty's Club Tavern. The building is owned by Rich Brundage and leased by Chris Doster as a fitness center.
The building in this week's article was a produce house as early as July 1934 when an advertisement appeared in the paper ammouncing the Sunlight Produce Co. had moved into the J. A. McClanahan building opposite of the Lamb Hotel. In 1959 Keith Draper took over the produce house from Art Nance and renamed it Farmers Produce.
By July 1961, Vern Poortinga owned Farmers Produce. He bought out Billie Finch
and merged Mt. Ayr Produce with Farmers Produce. Mr. Poortinga located in the better building at 115 E. Madison and had Curly Grimes as his egg department manager and Keith Draper as his cream department manager.
But things didn't stay this way for long. On April 1, 1964, Keith, Merle, and Gloria Draper opened Draper Produce in the former Max Bond body shop at 205 W. South Street. Mr. Grimes opened the Mt. Ayr Cream & Egg Co. in the old Finch building at 115 E. Madison in June of 1963.
I don't know when these businesses closed but my newspaper route took me past Draper Produce in 1970 and I remember seeing no activity there at that time.
When Rich Bundage was remodeling his building at 115 E. Madison, he found an old advertising (Squirt soda pop) blackboard containing the hand-written, bulk prices for Nixon Feeds. Mr. Brundage donated that blackboard to the Mount Ayr Depot Museum on the conditions the prices never be erased from the blackboard. I have mounted the blackboard on the wall and screwed a sheet of plexiglass over it so it can't be accidently erased.
Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, November of 2015