Limbo produce store closes after fifteen years

by: David F. Ashton Limbo customers lined up during this, its next-to-last day of business. The produce store’s diversity of customers was rivaled only by its huge variety of bulk herbs, spices, and teas.

On a recent sunny Saturday morning, people lined up for the last time at the counter of Limbo, the small produce shop in the Reed neighborhood next to Trader Joe's, just south of Holgate Boulevard. The shop was to close the next day, Sunday July 3rd, and many seemed as if in denial.

Eastmoreland resident Pam Archer said she has shopped regularly at Limbo for herbs and spices because she likes the freshness and variety. 'Particularly during the Holiday season, I love the ginger and the sage. It's great quality at a good price. The owners have a terrific background. This is leaving a huge hole.'

During its fifteen years of business, Limbo became well-known throughout the area for its organic produce and its unique variety of bulk herbs, teas, and spices. Limbo owner and Eastmoreland resident Rick Nichols' history of owning the Yamhill Fruit Market downtown, owning a downtown herb shop, and transforming the Ross Island Grocery from a mundane convenience store to a well-rounded corner grocery, were all experiences that contributed to making Limbo into a small scale shopping gem.

Woodstock resident Steven Stark, standing in line, on that last Saturday, with his two teenaged children, commented on his favorite purchases. 'The dollar cup of coffee and the spices - they're fun.' About the shop closing, his response was philosophical: 'So it goes.'

The small, colorful market, with its large open bins of fruits and vegetables flanking the sidewalk out front, and long hallway inside - lined high on both sides with hundreds of tall herb and spice jars - has been a neighborhood favorite that many came to rely on. A comparable combination of produce and exotic bulk spices and herbs was not available elsewhere nearby.

Customer Ann Bennett commuted regularly south from the Hawthorne Boulevard area because she liked Limbo's European ambience.

'Coming from Britain, I was used to shopping for fruits and vegetables in similar settings; so when it opened, I gravitated to this family-owned business. I am very disappointed to learn that it's closing. I hope someone can carry on the legacy, because it's unique.'

Dollar bags of slightly-aging fruits and vegetables, packaged rather than discarded, were another 'fun' aspect of Limbo. The large, clear plastic bags stuffed with bananas or an array of vegetables or fruits were a draw to the market for neighbors looking for a quality bargain.

After the market closed, Ellen Campbell, who was Limbo co-owner with her husband Rick Nichols, commented on those dollar bags, saying, 'Many people who could not otherwise afford organic produce, or produce period, for that matter, [bought them]. It was our community service to have dollar bags going out every day for a decade.'

It was a good run while it lasted. But in a world of impermanence, even a business sustained with heart, soul, a lot of hard work and loyal customers and employees, has to come to an end sometime. And the time seemed right for the owners to kick back and take some well-deserved time off for now. THE BEE will keep readers posted about what Trader Joe's decides to do with the space.