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Zappa Produce closing after 22 years
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After more than two decades of providing fresh fruits and vegetables to Newton County, the Zappa Produce stand will pack up and sell off its wares for the final time July 5.

The Campbell Plaza shopping center on U.S. Highway 278, which has been home to Zappa Produce for the last 20 of its 22 years, is slated to be torn down to make way for new construction.

In addition to the construction, owner Robbie Zappa, a welding instructor at DeKalb Technical College, said he was closing the stand because of his full schedule.

"It's simple," he said. "I teach college. I've got a full time job and full time students. I don't have time to relocate."

Zappa opened the first stand in 1975 at Brown Bridge and Turner Lake with his mother Sadie Zappa, and started another stand at Alcovy the following year, before moving to their present location in the third year. Sadie was the face of Zappa Produce for many years and ran the stand, along with Mario Castillo, until she passed away in 2000.

While Newton County has gone through tremendous growth and change in the past two decades, the Zappa stand still operates much like it always has - with fresh produce and friendly, relationship-oriented service.

On any given day, you can find the stand crowded with small, heaping baskets of fruit and vegetables, which are purchased early that morning from the farmer's market. Luscious, dusky plums, glossy strawberries, snap beans, potatoes and peppers fight for attention with the perennially popular red tomatoes, dark green watermelons, fuzzy peaches and bags of Vidalia onions. The sweet, heady perfume of fruit wafts in the breeze as cars, trucks, and ambulances roar by on U.S. Highway 278

Two Army officers, traveling on their way to Kentucky, had heard about the stand's peaches and stopped by to take a look. They're given an enormous basketful at reduced price, as a thank you for their service.

Regular customers are similarly cherished. Robbie and his wife Karen recalled some of their favorite customers, such as "Old Joe" who carved figurines out of peach and cherry pits, "Miss Daisy," a frail, sweet elderly woman who was driven around town by her husband and a gentleman who, every fall, would give them a gift of Muscadine wine.

"We don't know their names," said Robbie. "Most everybody we know by face."

Employee Tracy Vader loves working at the stand and recalls the fun times, including water fights during the hot, sweltering summers.

"I'm going to miss everything about it," she said. "Four years ago, I didn't even know who these people were. I'd never even stopped in here. I've made some really good friends and they're like family now."

To his customers, Robbie would like to say "Thank you, for all of it. The customers are what make the business. Without them, we wouldn't have been here."

"The bottom line is this," he said. "When they flattened out this shopping center and they've finally made up their mind what they're going to do, if they'll let us come back out here, we'll come back. And if not, it's been a great ride for the last 22 years. We've made a lot of friends and we're going to miss them."