A toddler sits in a worn but sturdy shopping cart, grasping a purple plum in her fist with delight as her mother places fruit into a bag.
An employee smiles as she sprays bright red beets with a mister, in an attempt to keep them hydrated as the blistering heat slowly, but surely, makes its way through the orange roof of the market.
The rows of produce at Two EE’s Farm market are so colourful they mimic a rainbow coming to life.
But their days are numbered.
Soon, this vibrant and quaint setting will come to an end, with the decades-old family-run Fleetwood market set to close its doors on Oct. 31, after 58 years, after the family sold the property to the City of Surrey last month.
As Ken VanderPloeg says, “sometimes, that’s just how the cookie crumbles.”
VanderPloeg is the market’s buyer. He married into the family that’s run the business since 1960.
“Family dynamics is what contributed to a lot of the change,” VanderPloeg said.
“Especially looking ahead to the next generation and how that plays out for some of us. The interest of the kids involved was one of the big factors.”
He said the Two EE’s Farm – located 10 minutes from the market in Port Kells on 88th Avenue – will still continue to operate.
He and his son will manage that operation.
“So there will still be Two EE’s organic produce around,” he noted, but the market will be no more.
The decision has impacted the family members differently.
“It’s a big change,” he acknowledged. “It will hit us in different ways. It’s been chewing at us for a while.”
Ann Jansen has been in it a lot longer than VanderPloeg.
“Oh, forever,” she shyly smiled. “Since I was a little girl with my dad. I guess full-time since I graduated, so 1979? Wow, it’s been a long time.
“Very hard, it’s been very hard,” Jansen said of the decision to close the store.
“It’s been a difficult year or two. It’s been my life, and also thinking of the customers and community, and all our employees,” she added. “It’ll be a loss. It’s part of the family, really.”
Jansen, the business’ accountant, is the oldest of nine children born to Henk and Jenny Schoen who purchased the farm in 1960.
But the farm’s history – and namesake – goes back even farther, to before the Second World War.
Two EE’s was started by Emil and Elizabeth Kowalski, and began as a dairy farm and fruit stand on a plot of land, according to the company’s website, wegroworganic.ca, which highlights the history of the business with firm roots in Fleetwood.
“It was just a little stand then, that’s all that was on there,” said Jansen. “The back was not cultivated or anything, they had cows on there.”
When her parents took over in 1960, they decided to continue farming fruits and vegetables.
They also got rid of the cows, and brought in bees and chickens.
Their plan was to sell the eggs and honey, as well as vegetables produced on the farm, at the roadside stand.
At peak production they had 40 hives of bees and 2,500 chickens.
In 1960, one dozen eggs sold for 25 cents, and the Two EE’s unpasteurized honey cost their customers 30 cents a pound.
Jenny made jam and bread, selling as many as 100 loaves of bread for 27 cents on national holidays.
And the Schoen kids picked more than eggs and veggies. They picked stones.
Whenever the kids misbehaved they were sent out to pick rocks from the fields. As the story goes, it was the kids who cleared much of the land.
“There was a small house on the property when my parents bought it,” Jansen recalled.
“They added onto that house, which is part of the store now, because at that time they had six kids. So they needed to have a bit more room and I guess it was 1975, they built the house in the back of the property. It’s not there anymore, but that’s where two of my brothers were born.”
The first half of the store that exists today was built in 1970. Then, when the family moved to the house in the back in 1975, the store expanded.
As the area developed and more families moved to the South Fraser area, business boomed. That’s when Two EE’s produce selection blossomed.
When demand grew to beyond what their farm could produce, they began buying more from other local farmers.
As the number of customers increased, they became too many for the family to serve on their own, and over the years numerous employees were hired.
Many have come and gone, but there are a number who have worked beside the family for more than 30 years.
In November of 2000, the farm expanded by acquiring 25 more acres of farm, the Port Kells operation that VanderPloeg and his son will carry on.
And as business grew over the years, so did the family. Henk and Jenny had nine children, and, at last count, there were 31 grandchildren and five great grandchildren in the family. At one point or another, the Schoen kids all worked side by side with mom and dad, before Henk and Jenny passed away a few years ago.
Some store employees are already grieving the loss of the market, as the countdown to closure begins.
“Pretty sad. But new adventures coming, I guess,” said Brad deBoer, market manager, who has worked at Two EE’s for 24 years.
“I’m almost part of the family,” he laughed.
Word has slowly been getting out about the closure, as staff have all now been told.
“Thank you for all the support over the years,” Jansen said to all the market’s customers over the decades. “We’re sad to go. But time goes on.”
VanderPloeg, too, expressed his gratitude to the market’s loyal customers over the years.
“After almost 60 years as a family business, before we close, we just would like to express our appreciation and thankfulness for the customer support from Surrey and the surrounding communities,” he said. “We really appreciate the support and value the relationships developed over the time as well. It’s been a really nice run, and we’re definitely closing the store with mixed feelings and emotions,” he added.
SO many memories here. From going to pick up flats and flats of tomatoes or peaches for canning with mom as a child… to shopping with my kids. Here's my daughter picking green onions as big as she is! The beloved Two EE's market will be missed. #surreybchttps://t.co/tKw0Zdx889 pic.twitter.com/6meeVSxaBC
— Amy Marie Reid (@amyreid87) August 9, 2018
Two EE’s Farm market is located on a 2.11-acre property at 16411 Fraser Hwy.
The City of Surrey has plans for the property. The lot, located west of the Surrey Sport and Leisure complex and Bonnie Schrenk Park, completes an area of land acquisition the city sought in order to consolidate to build a “destination athletic park” for Fleetwood that may include sports fields and other amenities, to be determined through future public consultation.
Click here to read more about the city purchasing the property.