Out of your gourd? Rip-roaring sales have merchants cutting it close

In Greek it was the word for a large melon: pepon.

In Greek it was the word for a large melon: pepon.

The French adapted it to “pompon,” which the British changed to “pumpion.”

Eventually, when the American colonists were taught how to grow a patch of the orange-colored gourds by the Native Americans, it settled into its familiar name of today, which is, of course, “pumpkin.”

On the South End, though, it may be time to call those great gourds something else: money in the bank. Pumpkins are turning out to be one of the hottest October items at local grocery stores.

At the Ken’s Korner Red Apple in Clinton, produce manager Kayla Nevarez said that in the last week of September she ordered two big bins of pumpkins, holding about 40 pumpkins each.

“I wanted to be prepared,” Nevarez said.

Alas, it wasn’t enough.

“We’re onto our third bin now, and they’re pretty good-sized pumpkins.”

The Red Apple orders the pumpkins from Unified Grocers, a wholesale grocery cooperative.

Nevarez said they also carry sugar pie pumpkins for those who like to make pumpkin pie.

“You just bake those and scoop ‘em out for pie,” she said.

The best part of having pumpkins in the store through October, Nevarez said, is the children who come to the store excited about finding their next jack-o-lantern.

“The kids come and get really excited and that makes me happy,” Nevarez said.

The 39-cents-per-pound pumpkins will be available at the Red Apple through Halloween on Sunday, when the store will be offering tricks and treats to costumed kids.

At the Star Store in Langley, produce worker Joe Crane said there has been about 600 pumpkins of all different sizes delivered there since early October, and families have been buying up the Halloween must-haves in a steady stream.

“One farmer brought in a giant pumpkin for fun,” Crane said. That one costs $20.

The Star Store’s other pumpkins are going for 29 cents per pound, and so far, Crane said, there have been no pumpkin disasters at the store, such as smashed or moldy pumpkins.

Like the Star Store, the Goose Community Grocer in Bayview is selling small, medium and large pumpkins, but not by the pound.

“We’re selling them by ‘each,’ produce specialist Chanthong Keopanya said. “That eliminates people having to weigh them,” he said.

The Goose prices range from $2.99 and $3.99, to $5.49 each for the big ones.

“The pumpkin patch pumpkins out in Snohomish are like $10, so that’s a good price,” Keopanya said.

“We’re doing this for the community and not making any money on the pumpkins.”

Keopanya was visiting from off-island for a special training session for the Myers Group store. He was acting as a coach to the Goose’s produce manager, Rayner Marty.

The Goose ordered about eight bins early on, and is up to about 20 bins since the end of September.

“I’d rather have a couple of bins to throw away, than to not have any left,” Keopanya said. It’s always better for customers to have a choice, he said.

The store sold quite a few pumpkins this past weekend, with families coming in and taking pictures together near the pumpkin display.

“I really love that. They treat it like a pumpkin patch,” Keopanya said.

The pumpkins at the Goose come from Sherman Pioneer Farm in Coupeville, as well as from wholesalers Charlie’s Produce and United Salad Company, but Keopanya would like to find one farmer who can grow all the company’s pumpkins for all six Myers Group stores.

“I’d love to get the prices down and have just one farmer growing for us. That’s on my to-do list,” he said.

The Goose is currently holding a “guess the weight of the biggest pumpkin” contest. Keopanya said the pumpkin is well over

100 pounds. The Goose also invites trick-or-treaters to come and collect candy from its costumed cashiers on Sunday.