One sure sign of spring in the Yukon territory is the annual arrival of the swans.
Another is the opening of Candy’s Fruit Stand in downtown Whitehorse in early May.
Candy Kent is a character written from a Dickens novel, always aware of the situation at hand and with a fresh-yogurt sense of humour, prepared to offer a recipe for any combination from banana to avocado with Spanish onions.
The Kent family has been part of the territorial landscape since arriving here in 1973.
Candy and her mother, Helen—friends invariably bow and refer to her as “Mom Kent”—opened the original stand in 1990, next to Whitehorse Distributors, then co-owned by Candy’s brother, Morgan, and partner Wayne King.
However, what began as a lean-to stand on Second avenue and Black street 22 years ago has become a must stop for shoppers who don’t mind spending an extra nickel or two, as long as everybody at the table is smiling and healthy.
PHOTO: courtesy Candy Kent The Kent family’s fruit stand has come a long way since this picture was taken in 1992
Arriving at the Fruit Stand, rookies and veteran shoppers alike are immediately aware that this a serious fun shop.
Accosted by the scents of spring one can’t help but think of fresh fruits and vegetables for the dinner table.
In the Fruit Stand a shopper will find a collage of fruit and vegetables including cherries, tomatoes, peppers from Canada, chilis in all colours from California, plus Mexican watermelons long before watermelon “season”.
What comes as a surprise to many shoppers is the array of vegetables available.
From Yukon’s Rivendell Farms to Candy’s friend’s cellar, a shopper can find organic vegetables, as well as 12 different flavours of honey and a variety of homemade jams.
Every turn in the Stand offers a surprise. One of the favourites is the seafood cooler, stuffed with fresh halibut, Alaska king crab, sockeye salmon and scallops.
The wide variety of items available makes the atmosphere reminiscent of an old five-and-dime store.
This is a true family operation, and it shows in a way that is not often seen in a small operation these days.
Candy’s mother is always there. Her brothers and friends have always been around.
And her husband, Joe Imbeau, who previously worked on road construction for 27 years, now ramrods the shop, directing the loading and unloading with a quick wit and a no-nonsense attitude.
On the subject of organic Cathy has a ready response.
“Hey, it’s healthy. Our customers are educated and understand right away,” she says.
“We now stock nearly 20-percent of our vegetables and fruit with organic product and much of it is from the territory. I don’t believe there is any question on healthy fruit and vegetables… don’t poison them.”
In one of Candy’s coolers is a seriously cool story.
A woman from Sherwood Park, Alberta, began building cheesecakes in her small basement kitchen over 30 years ago.
Candy discovered her during a fruit and vegetable hunt in Alberta. Today, her cooler is stocked with a wide variety of the same delicious cheesecakes, and the woman from St. Alberta is now in charge of a multi-million dollar cheesecake business.
Fresh is a key ingredient in Candy and Joe’s fruit stand.
“Oh, the system of delivery has changed so much over the years,” she says. “Now all the trucks are properly refrigerated and on a tight delivery schedule.”
Greg King, who has known Candy and Joe from school days in Whitehorse, is also a main man on delivery day when the five-ton cube trucks arrive.
“Candy and Joe and the Kent family have always had a-hands on feel for the community and their health,” King says.
“I have always appreciated that.”
Candy’s Fruit and Vegetable Stand is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. on Black Street between 2nd and 3rd avenues.