Situated in the corner of a parking lot on S. Tully Road, just about 100 yards from the incessant whir of freeway traffic, the Turlock Fruit Co. Melon Stand may well be the best-kept secret in all of Turlock.
Some longtime Turlockers have never even heard of the tiny retail outlet for the 104-year-old fruit company’s vine-ripened products. Others may have heard, but they’ve never bothered to venture to its off-the-beaten-path location.
“The majority of old-time Turlockers will say, ‘Oh, I used to pack honeydews for Don Smith,’” said melon stand employee Sarah Phillips, referring to the Turlock Fruit Co.’s longtime owner. “Some of the newcomers will say that their neighbor told them about it or that their neighbor brought them a melon from here.”
Marcie Ingalls, a 21-year resident of Turlock, knew about the stand, but had never visited.
“My friend brought me some melon to try and, well, here I am,” said Ingalls. “Though I drove right past it the first time. I had to turn around and come back.”
Ingalls recommends the OrangeDew melon, also known as the orange-fleshed honeydew.
“It’s the best melon in the world,” Ingalls declared.
If it’s not the best in the world, it may at least be the best in Turlock. Phillips and co-worker Lois Espy agree that the OrangeDew is the most popular of the dozen or so varieties sold at the stand —
“It looks like a honeydew on the outside and a cantaloupe on the inside,” said Espy.
The attraction? It’s super sweet.
The melon stand has been in operation for 15 to 20 years, according to Smith, who opened it not as a financial concern but for more practical reasons.
“I opened it to stop people from coming in here asking to buy melons,” Smith said with a chuckle during an interview inside the Turlock Fruit Co. offices. “This is a warehouse and shipping operation.”
And the foot traffic got in the way of production.
So, a melon stand was created. It operates from around the Fourth of July to late September.
And, as a bonus for Turlock Fruit Co., the melon stand has been profitable.
“Are we going to put Safeway out of business?” Smith joked. “No, I don’t think so, but …”
Smith can keep his warehouse free of pedestrians while providing Turlockers with a summertime treat that beats almost any price … and helps beat the heat. Just don’t tell anybody.
It’s a secret.