A new store in Lucedale offers farm-fresh produce. But it's also got a bigger purpose.

Southern Roots in Lucedale offers fresh vegetables, fruits and locally produced milk.
Southern Roots in Lucedale offers fresh vegetables, fruits and locally produced milk.

Fresh produce, locally produced milk and Amish products are what you'll see on the shelves at Southern Roots. But there's something going on behind the scenes that makes this more than just a produce shop.

Nicole and Dwight Gay opened Southern Roots on Tuesday, May 1, in the former location of Chavers Farm Fresh Produce, then McLains' Produce, at 214 Winter Street. You'll still find fruits and vegetables as well as milk from nearby Havens Down Home Creamery and Amish canned goods.

"The opportunity came up for my husband and I to purchase the business," Nicole Gay said. "We are passionate about helping people, and we both love vegetables."

She hopes to add chemical-free products to the lineup in the future.

The couple has been involved in a ministry to children in Mobile for about a year and half, and that's where the difference is noticeable.

"My husband and I do a kids' ministry in Mobile," she said. "On Saturdays, we pack up a van and go into Mobile." The couple pass out snacks to children there; in the past, it has been single-serve snack cakes, "but now we're passing out fruit, and they really are enjoying this."

During the transition between the previous store and the new Southern Roots, the Gays rounded up fruits and vegetables that were slightly blemished and milk that soon would expire and distributed those to the families of children with whom they've connected. The couple will continue that opportunity to bless others, Nicole Gay said.

The store's new point-of-sale system will offer customers the option of checking out themselves if they're in a hurry, and it will provide a way for customers to contribute directly to the Gays' ministry.

"You'll have the 'round-up' option, to even the amount out, and the change can benefit what we do," she said. The change, she added, would help purchase materials and activities related to the ministry.

They attend a church between Lucedale and Mobile and frequently children they assist attend the church. Gay estimates they work with between 50 and 60 children each week and have reached between 100 and 150 since they began.

"The heart of it is, we want to help people," she said. Ultimately, she hopes to be able to offer work opportunities to young people "to teach them how to work and fly in the real world."

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130 or @simmiefran1

If you go

What: Southern Roots

Where: 214 Winter Street, Lucedale

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4:30 Thursday. The store is closed Saturday and Sunday.