Produce market has changes in store

ENGLEWOOD — Sheckler Produce on South McCall has been sold and is transitioning into Sunfresh Produce.

The signage of Sheckler Produce still remains, but changes have been far-reaching. The warehouse is being redone, new refrigeration installed and new trucks added to the fleet.

New owner Steve Clark took over from Scott Sheckler in Feburary with systemic and aesthetic changes to the facility in mind.

“It’s been a very busy time for us,” Clark said. “We’ve been operating the business like it has the past 20 years. We’re trying to learn as much as we can about what’s going on in the market.”

General manager Jim Kripp said feedback has been positive about the changes made since the company was sold.

“The new owners have really put a lot of pride back into the company,” Kripp said.

Lynda Rajkovich of Rotonda, a frequent shopper for eight years, shopped at the store Monday. She said the atmosphere is “very nice and friendly.

“It’s nice with the air conditioning and everything’s fresh,” Rajkovich said. “It’s more efficient.”

Jennifer Belmont of Englewood buys produce for JB’s Conch Cafe on North Access Road because the store offers good value, she said. JB’s has been shopping there for more than seven years.

“I remember when the space they used was smaller,” Belmont said. “Now, they have more.”

The change in ownership also marks a change in business direction into possible expansion.

“We’re looking at things, items that would be significant additions to the retail line for the customers there in Englewood,” Clark said. “We’re also looking at the possibility of opening additional retail locations.”

While Sunfresh is making changes to the old Sheckler Produce, the previous owner, Scott Sheckler, is making some changes in his own life.

“It was just time to sell,” Sheckler said. “The economy was getting bad and we really didn’t want to fight the bad accounts anymore. We didn’t want to get someone in there who’d ruin the business and destroy the name. Besides that, we wanted somebody good for the customers.”

Sheckler was in business for 27 years. While he said he regrets no longer operating the business, one luxury he is now afforded is spending time with his three children. They are ages 23, 21, and 19. Sheckler said he wishes he had been around more while they were growing up.

“I truly never was there,” Sheckler said. “The sad thing about it was I never got to know my kids. That’s kind of a crazy thing to say. I was always trying to develop the company, to grow the company.”

Sheckler says he ran his produce store handson — perhaps to a fault — which may have been detrimental when it came to his children, but it was his secret to his success.

“The produce business completely consumes you if you’re a hands-on person,” Sheckler said. “The new buyer, I think is more computer-intelligent. He’s much more computer-diligent than I was. I’m not saying it’s a more right or wrong way of doing things, but when I always had to do it myself, I think it consumed me in the end.”

Sheckler said the store has come a long way since it was started as a produce stand by his parents.

“We were around for 27 years and I hope everybody enjoyed it,” Sheckler said.

Sunfresh Produce is located at 3037 S. McCall Road. For more information call 941-475-7336.

Customer picking vegetables

SUN PHOTO BY TOM CHANG
Karen Lorenson of Rotonda browses through tomatoes at Sunfresh (formerly Sheckler) Produce at 3037 S. McCall Road.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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