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Behling’s produce store to open in Adams despite possible property sale

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ADAMS CENTER — A for-sale sign was posted last week at Behling’s Spookhill Farms store at 12139 Route 11.

But owner Michael W. Behling, who resurrected his produce store in the building last year, plans to open for business at the location in May, where he sells a variety of fresh produce, customer-picked strawberries and flowers.

While owner Matthew C. Ramsey, Adams Center, is trying to sell the building and 38 acres, Mr. Behling will continue leasing the store until a buyer is found. Mr. Behling, who leases the store from May through October, said his customers can expect the stand to be open throughout the summer. If the building is sold, he said, he’ll likely place a makeshift tent on an adjacent 150 acres of farmland he owns to keep the business open.

“I can’t rent the building and pay for it year-round,” said Mr. Behling, who is also a Jefferson County legislator. “What I make on produce doesn’t pay for it. But until (Mr. Ramsey)sells it, I will continue to rent it during the months of the season when I can use it. Maybe I’ll have to set up a tent, but I’ll stick something up over there to stay open.”

Mr. Ramsey, a residential builder, said Thursday he decided to “stick the sign out” to see if it attracts potential buyers. Advertised by Elliott Realty of Watertown, the property is listed at $499,000. But unless it’s sold, Mr. Ramsey said, he will maintain a business partnership with Mr. Behling.

“Mike is a friend of mine, and if he wants to keep his produce stand, that’s fine with me,” Mr. Ramsey said. “It’s been a fruit and vegetable stand for years and has always done well.”

The produce stand, which Mr. Behling runs with his wife, Catherine M., hit a rough patch recently. The Behlings operated the store from 1973 to 2007. It then became the Backyard Farmer, owned by Brian R. Sheley. When the Backyard Farmer closed in April 2012 because of a mortgage foreclosure, the Behlings resurrected their family business.

Making a profit at a produce stand is a challenge, Mr. Behling said, because families often elect to do most of their shopping at grocery stores.

“Produce at grocery stores cuts back on business here a little bit, so you always try to keep the prices as low as you possibly can,” he said.

But for the Behlings, operating the business is about much more than making a profit. It’s the customers who come back year after year who keep their spirits up.

“That’s what keeps me hanging in there,” he said. “You hate to disappoint people, and I enjoy seeing people and having them come in to buy stuff.”

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