MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Vann’s Produce – A Staple in the Zion Hill Community
Posted on December 29th, 2023
In 1965, in the charming community of Zion Hill, nestled off Highway 107, a small produce stand emerged, which came to be known as Vann’s Produce.
The story of how it started is one that brings back fond memories to those who grew up in the area. Joe Vann was born in 1908 in a house in North Pulaski County. He attended Zion Hill Schools and met his soon-to-be bride, Hazel, at Zion Hill Church. They eventually married in 1932.
After World War II, Joe returned to Hazel and began working for a contractor, setting poles for First Electric Cooperative and other electric companies. After a back injury, Joe decided to use his truck — which was one of just a few in the Zion Hill community — and started Vann’s Produce.
Without a storefront to support his business endeavor, Joe would make the drive to Little Rock and bring back produce to sell on the roadside of Highway 107. Family, friends and neighbors began to rely on his fruits and vegetables, and the business became a staple in the small community.
With determination and encouragement from his wife, Joe in 1965 transformed a roadside business into a storefront located on First Electric lines. The produce stand flourished and became a beacon of renewal in the post-war era faced with adversity.
After a few years, a small kitchen and living quarters were added for Joe’s grandmother to reside. This allowed Joe and Hazel to prepare sandwiches and sell other household items in the store. Next, they added gas pumps — selling it for 30 cents a gallon!
In time, the store became a local hangout to catch up over a cup of coffee; kids would buy candy for a penny and play out back.
In 1971, the Vanns sold the store to enjoy time with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Unfortunately, in 1974, Joe passed away while hunting in the deer woods, doing what he loved.
Today, the Vann name is still respected in the community, and many of their relatives still live in the area on First Electric’s lines.