INDIANAPOLIS — It began as a fresh produce stand in 2008 and grew into something much more. But on Friday "Locally Grown Gardens" at 54th and the Monon closes for good much to the disappointment of its many devoted customers and former employees.
Seeing the "Moving Sale" sign out front was hard for Annie Lohrstorfer and Paige Logan.
Lohrstorfer said, "When I pulled up and saw it empty, I was emotional and had to circle back because I had a lot of memories."
She and Logan worked at Locally Grown Gardens through high school. Ron Harris was their boss.
"I worked in the back and would just make pies all morning and at night we're serving food. I love to bake now because of Ron," Logan said. "And he's such a hard worker he made me a hard worker."
Harris, an Indianapolis native, went to culinary school in New York working as chef there before returning home to Indy.
In 2008, he saw an old service station and said "it just clicked. I knew it would be fantastic."
It would become the place where he'd sell fresh produce, soon adding a kitchen. He offered a limited menu, which included roasted salmon, smoked pulled pork sandwiches and his signature sugar cream pie, among others.
He offered pick-up and casual dining at one of the picnic tables out front. But in recent years, it became increasingly difficult to keep up. Harris has Parkinson's Disease. Last fall he would close for days or weeks at a time.
David Burton, who had recently moved to Indianapolis, fell in love with the LGG. Though he had a full-time job, he offered to help Harris after hours.
"It's a bit rare to come into a place and see how much work and effort someone has put into it and how much of themselves they have in it," Burton said. "He's a beautiful person and it shows in his store."
Audrey Robins also began working for Harris part-time. She had been coming to LGG with her family since she was in her teens.
"Ron needed help and I said I would come in and spend a little time in his paradise," she said. "This is treasure to me and my family, so didn't want to see it lost."
No one wanted to see Harris forced to close including Dan Ferarro, a long-time customer.
"I've always said to him, I'll keep coming here. I love talking to you, I love buying your pies. Just the whole atmosphere in here makes you feel good," Ferraro said.
But when Harris lost his lease on the building, he knew it was time for a change.
"That's what I'm focusing on is my health, being consistent what I can manage," he said adding, "I believe in myself. I think I have a lot more left in me."
He plans to take a few months off and reflect on what's next. He said he wants to continue cooking and baking for people but on a smaller scale with fewer demands.
Harris said what feeds him are the people he works with and serves.
While reflecting on the last 13 years Harris said, "we're washing dishes, cooking food and doing this and that but it's bigger than that, it's how we treat one another... what I've always enjoyed about the market is the interaction."