John Goeke’s granddaughter Tricia Stout has fond memories of spending time at the Goeke Produce store in Old Town Florissant during her childhood.
“When we were there, we knew we had to work,” Stout said. “Grandpa was one of the people I idolized in my life, and you knew he wouldn’t let you just sit around.”
Stout said she remembers that she and several of her cousins would go to the store and put up bananas, peel onions and do other tasks assigned by Goeke.
Since Goeke died nearly 10 years ago, Stout said her mother Karen Ormsby now runs the store, along with Ormsby’s sister Lynne Combest and two other sisters. She said the sisters took over the store about five years before Goeke died, when he officially retired.
Stout told Florissant Patch that the business had humble beginnings.
“It started when my grandpa would peddle door-to-door with a used, old van,” she said. “He would go pick up fruits and vegetables every morning from Produce Row downtown and go door-to-door to sell them. Wives who stayed home would buy from him during the day.”
Stout said that Goeke later started dealing produce wholesale, servicing restaurants and other institutions in the area.
“At one point, he had 70 businesses in Florissant and the surrounding area,” she said. “He did Pizza Hut and Quizno's and quite a few others, but then Cisco came in and undercut the prices, and he lost a lot of business.”
She said that the current Goeke Produce store still has a wholesale side, and it continues to serve several businesses in the area, just not as many as before.
“When the wholesale business decreased, he (Goeke) decided to open the retail side in the early '80s,” Stout said. “When I was a child, we would always go to the retail locations. At first, they were just seasonal tents that were set up.”
Nearly 20 years ago, Goeke Produce found a new home in Florissant at 300 St. Ferdinand St., Stout said.
“Two years ago, we moved over to 449 St. Ferdinand, which is catty-corner to the old store,” she said. “Our intention was always to expand, but we were waiting for the right location.”
She said the while the old store was very small, the new store is almost four times the size of the old one, so Goeke Produce has been able to expand in some exciting ways.
“Our whole intention was to be a produce store and a little market,” she said. “My mom was most excited about the spice section, where we have over 250 different spices and seasonings.”
She said they package the fresh spices themselves, making them far cheaper than the ones you can buy at the grocery store—and usually of higher quality.
Goeke also carries local barbecue sauce, local honey and salad dressings, as well as many other Missouri-made products and Missouri Mercantile items. She said this was the direction her mother, Ormsby, had always wanted to go in.
“Goeke has always been family-owned and family-run for well over 50 years now, and we’re really just trying to serve the community and give then what they want,” Stout said.
She noted that if customers want a certain kind of produce that the store doesn’t usually carry, Goeke is happy to stock it for them.
“We are even carrying ghost peppers and some spices by customer request,” she said. “That’s the hottest pepper in the world.”
Stout said she wants to thank the Florissant community for supporting Goeke Produce for so many years.