FAIRMONT — Mallory Moholt saw a need in Fairmont for a local produce vendor, so she decided to fill the need herself.

Along Route 250 South between Wood’s Boat House and Muriale’s Italian Kitchen sits a small, shed storefront that has held various pop-up shops and stops over the years, but its newest tenant is Moholt, a plucky 23-year-old with a passion for getting good, locally-sourced food on community tables.

“People need to eat good food, that’s what makes us happy. That’s never going to change,” Moholt said. “We work with incredible farmers with incredible practices, and we’ve established those relationships. We know how to source the good stuff.”

Moholt started Mal’s Fresh Produce when she was just 20-years-old and a marketing student at West Virginia University. The business began as a series of roadside booths and tables, but her move to Fairmont marks a big step into a new county and a more permanent location.

Monday was the Fairmont location’s first official day open, beginning the summer season.

The importance of fresh and local food was instilled in her from a young age. Growing up, her family ran a similar fresh produce business in her home state of Maryland.

In addition to the foodstuffs in the baskets and on the shelves, Mal’s also sells homemade sauces, dips, dressings and jams. Once business starts to settle in and word gets out, Moholt hopes to expand her offerings.

Items such as fresh-baked breads, flowers and meats may soon be available too.

“We’re kind of like your local market I guess you could say,” Moholt said.

Until a constant stream of local products are procured in the coming weeks, Mal’s is offering produce shipped up from Florida. Moholt has a lineup of farmers she’s worked with in Morgantown from nearby places like Grantsville, Md., Romney and Morgantown.

Moholt will work the stand herself, but the face most Fairmont customers will meet is Gabrielle Lory, who will be manning the stand full-time throughout the summer months.

Lory met Moholt in Morgantown and became familiar with her produce business. As Moholt was mulling around plans to expand to Fairmont and asked for help, Lory jumped right in.

“All of my grad school work and everything I’ve done so far has been about community building and advocacy and fixing social bonds,” Lory said. “What an awesome way to get in on the ground level and do that than to work at a fruit stand in a city or a town that really needs one.”

Lory and Moholt both agree that every community needs a place to buy local food that is convenient and accessible.

While there are farmer’s markets and pop up stands here and there, someone in Fairmont would have to make a trip to Morgantown to find items similar to those offered at Mal’s.

Most importantly of all, Moholt and Lory are out trying to build connections and make friends with their customers, not only to keep business flowing, but to keep healthy food options in the pantries of the community.

“This is a necessity, and we work really hard to provide everything. It’s an around-the-clock job but it’s worth it,” Moholt said. “We just want everyone to go home and eat happy.”

Mal’s Fresh Produce will be open every day all summer from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at their location on Route 250 between Muriale’s and Wood’s Boat House. For information about Mal’s Fresh Produce, search @MalsFreshProduce on Facebook or Instagram.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.

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