Drivers passing Mount Vernon Highway and Sandy Springs Circle might have wondered what happened to the landmark produce stand that sat by the side of the road for over 60 years.
Mason’s Produce was required to move for road work late last year from that corner of the Sandy Springs United Methodist Church property. But the church welcomed it to move into its parking lot off Sandy Springs Circle—just one way the church and the stand have helped each other, personally and financially, in their long relationship.
“Sandy Springs is like a family to us,” said stand owner Danny Hudson.
“They had a need, we had a resource, and we wanted to continue the partnership of being good neighbors,” said Rev. Thomas Martin, the church’s pastor.
Hudson, 56, took over ownership from his mother, Barbara Mason, about 15 years ago. Mason would go to the farmers market, and then go to the corner and sell off the back of her truck until it evolved into the permanent stand.
One recent day, Hudson’s wife and stand co-owner Denise Robins Hudson, 49, pulled up shortly after noon with fresh tomatoes to restock the stand’s supply. She recruited the help of Rick Schmidt, who has worked on and off with the produce stand for the last 30 years to unload the vegetables.
Hudson walked stiffly, as a result of a fatal car accident involving another car going more than 100 miles per hour in 2011, paralyzing her daughter, Briana.
The family was once again marked by tragedy this year. An electrical fire in January caused their family home in Williamson, Ga., to burn down. With the help of insurance and the church community, the house was quickly rebuilt, and made more accessible for Briana, who lives her life in a wheelchair, but doesn’t let that disability affect her spirit.
“She said God’s going to heal her and make her well,” said Denise.
“What’s hard is we depend on this [business] for my daughter’s care,” said Denise Hudson. “The money for this flies us to Baltimore for her doctor.” The doctor is the same one who treated Christopher Reeve, the late “Superman” actor who was paralyzed in a horse-riding accident.
“[Danny Hudson] came to us with this problem,” said Rev. Thomas Martin. “We’d always had this partnership, of being neighbors. And after their house burned down, it was a no-brainer to help them out in their time of need.”
“Not many churches would say, ‘Hey, you can sit down here and rebuild on our property,’” said Denise Hudson. “The church has been wonderful to let us be on their property.”
In exchange for the space, the Hudsons donate leftover usable produce to the church’s weekly lunch and donate proceeds to the congregation when operating during church events.
In addition to fruits and vegetables sourced from locally grown farmers across the South, Mason’s Produce sells firewood and pine straw. For special events at the church, they will serve hot boiled peanuts.
“I think for the public to get fresh produce straight off the vine is really important,” said Denise Hudson.