March 5, 2014
The corner of 11th Street and Cumberland Avenue will not come alive with tents, trees, shrubs and garden plants this year. After serving the community since the late 1930s, Laymon Produce in Middlesboro is closing its doors.
“We have had the best employees and customers anyone could have asked for; however, we are ready to embark on the next phase of our lives,” said Judy and Dewey England, owners of Laymon Produce. “We want to travel and spend time with friends and family.”
The Englands said they don’t want to miss any of their grandson, Collier’s, baseball or basketball games and want to enjoy activities with their granddaughter, Caroline. Their two youngest grandchildren, George and Mira, live in Knoxville, Tenn. and they look forward to regular visits with them and the opportunity to be involved in their school and community activities.
“Thank you to all of our customers,” said the Englands. “You made this business possible these many years.”
The Englands say they have been fortunate to be afforded careers they have loved and also to have met wholesalers, growers and customers who will remain life-long friends.
“The regular interaction with these people, as well as with our employees, is what we will miss,” said the Englands.
Laymon Produce was established by Willie Laymon in the late 1930s with only a truck, in which he would go purchase a load of apples, peaches, watermelons and other produce directly from the orchard or field. He would the sell the items and go back for another load. During World War II, he delivered fresh produce to the local mining camps.
The current building that housed the business was erected in the late 1940s and customers were mostly small neighborhood grocery stores, as well as the larger chain stores.
The business afforded jobs to almost every decade of teen-aged boys, especially those living in the East End of Middlesboro, according to the Englands. Among those teenagers was Willie’s nephew, GW (Buster) Lambert, who developed his uncle’s love for produce and eventually started his own business.
Willie’s late son-in-law, Bobby Booth, also worked at Laymon Produce for a number of years. Finally, his son-in-law, Dewey England, purchased the business in the early 1980s when Willie retired. Dewey had been employed by Willie for many years prior to the purchase.
In 1995, Dewey took the business to another dimension, changing it from a wholesale produce business to a retail produce market. In 1996 Dewey’s wife, Judy, retired from her teaching career to help him in the market.
Over the years, the Englands added flowers, vegetable plants, garden seed, fall decorations, Christmas trees and wreaths to their inventory. During the local growing season, the market became a “farmer’s market” with produce from growers in Tennessee and Kentucky.