J & D Produce is longtime fixture for fresh food

Squash and peppers are abundant at J & D Produce.

Hendersonville – J & D Produce after a quarter-century remains a popular source of fresh fruit and vegetables on the edge of Downtown Hendersonville.

J & D stands for the first names co-owners James and David Milholen, who are brothers and natives. David is the elder and taller one, James the chattier brother.

They have run the market since 1995, renaming it then. The site has been a produce stand for 41 years, since 1979. It is at 221 S. Church St. at the northwestern corner of West Barnwell and Church, on the southwestern edge of downtown.

The stand is open through around Halloween, hinging on the weather. Customers often stop there on their way home. Fridays and Saturdays are busiest by far, David said.

The market has been a social hub, of sorts. James said he relishes that aspect of their business. But the brothers are busier than usual this year, with a smaller staff since the pandemic began, David noted.

They are on the go handling various chores at the site, such as bringing in more produce from the cooler as supplies sell. For years James typically opens the market as David collects produce from local farmers. David noted they unload the truck together. 

James did drywall construction and freight loading, before going into the produce business.

David Milholen said he worked in restaurants for 14 of his first 20 years after graduating from Hendersonville High School in 1976. He soon ascended from dishwater to head waiter at the prestigious Woodfield Inn in Flat Rock. He also had sales jobs. He and James fondly recall growing a vegetable garden, while raised in Druid Hills.

Their market site was a car wash from 1972-79. The office was then converted into the stand’s main structure. There have been five co-owners. David and James took it over in ’95.

They built display tables. They added a walk-in cooler, behind it. The car wash’s concrete area for washing cars was an open accessory area for years, but items had to be brought in during rain. By 2005, the brothers covered it within a pavilion.

Melons are in the J & D pavilion. Behind them, David Milholen brings in more tomatoes from the cooler.
Melons are in the J & D pavilion. Behind them, David Milholen brings in more tomatoes from the cooler.


Melons, Corn, More

This is where customers take time picking corn and melons, sizing up selections. There is often sweet white corn or white-yellow mix, at two cobs for $1.50. A crate is for husks that customers discard if they de-husk cobs they buy.

J & D often carries tomatoes in three varieties of heirlooms with distinctive degrees and types of flavors and four types of beans. Apples are in. Yellow and green squash, avocados ($1 special last week) and peppers also draw in many customers.

The abundance of produce varies by weather. For instance, back in 2012 near-100-degree heat reduced quantity of beans. But extra rain and warmth made berries were more plentiful for that summer.

Sunflowers were the flower of choice this past week, and merely $5 for a bundle of four big blooms.

David Milholen is in front of a pack of corn-selecting customers, in unmasked pre-pandemic days.
David Milholen is in front of a pack of corn-selecting customers, in unmasked pre-pandemic days.


Family Heritage

The Milholen family for decades owned a half-block of land extending along the north side of Barnwell, from Church Street west toward Washington Street. The Milholen brothers bought it back into their family, in 2005.

Their grandfather, the late John Franklin McLeod, ran an auto transmission basement business there in post-World War II until 1972. He invented a specific brake fluid, they said. Their deceased great aunt, former City of Hendersonville tax collector Lilian Perkins, also lived on that block. She was an avid gardener. Both of their homes were removed, with hers now the produce’s rear parking lot.

James and David’s father, Oscar Milholen, was a truck driver for 30 years. He sold strawberries off the back of the J & D truck in the front lot for a decade, for drive-by and walk-in customers. He lived to age 85, to 2011.

J & D Produce is open 9 a.m. until 5:30 pm Tues.-Fri., to 2 pm Saturdays. For more information, call 696-4192.

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