By Susan Marquez
Back when times were simpler, a car trip would often include a stop at a roadside fruit stand. With the car loaded up with juicy peaches and strawberries for homemade ice cream, or a watermelon waiting to be iced down once you reached your destination, the fruit stand was a much-anticipated stop while traveling.
When Martha and Tommy Mixon started their small produce stand on Highway 49 in Seminary, they could never have imagined that Shady Acres would become the sprawling roadside attraction it is today. “They started selling watermelons under a big shade tree,” says Katrina Shotts, who serves as general manager of Shady Acres Village. “They had a little honor box where customers would leave their money before taking a melon.”
Today, Shady Acres Village has become a destination as much as it is a stop while on the road. The sprawling business features a general store, bakery, café and garden center. “The Mixons just kept adding small buildings as they were able to,” explains Katrina. The couple eventually sold Shady Acres, and a few years later, it burned. The Mixons were able to get the land back, and they rebuilt Shady Acres before selling it to Matthew and Julia Pierce, who are the current owners. Katrina has been at Shady Acres since it reopened in 2013.
The general store features a wide array of made-in-Mississippi products, including rows of Shady Acres branded jams, jellies, pickles and preserves. In the summer, the interior is also filled with mountains of local produce. Depending on the season, there will be tables filled with corn on the cob, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, peanuts and pumpkins. “We sell a lot of fresh vegetables, including bags of shelled peas and beans,” says Katrina. “We work with local farmers as much as we can. There is also a muscadine vineyard in the back where people can pick their own muscadine grapes, or they can purchase some inside.”
In the bakery, customers can purchase one of Shady Acres’ famous cakes, including the decadent Italian cream cake or the Hershey bar cake. Other goodies from the bakery include pies, cookies, cannolis and candied apples. Local candy makers supply pralines, fudge and other delicacies to satisfy any sweet tooth.
A freezer section offers crawfish and crab pies, corn and crab bisque and other seafood items from the Gulf coast, as well as fresh Gulf shrimp. In season, Shady Acres offers boiled crawfish, as well as King Cakes from Paul’s Pastry Shop in Picayune.
The café features farm-fresh vegetables cooked to perfection. “We have also become known for our smoked ribs,” Katrina says. Other offerings include hamburgers with hand-formed patties, topped with lettuce and locally grown tomatoes, and a dessert from the bakery. There are plenty of tables inside and even more on the large screened-in front porch.
Shady Acres now offers a full-service catering service for everything from business lunches to weddings. Shady Acres Village is located at 624 Highway 49, near Seminary.