ELLERBE — In her poem “Goblin Market,” poet Christina Rossetti speaks of fruit stands, vegetables and berries: “Come buy, come buy our orchard fruits …” and Lee Berry and his family have sold those fresh delicacies for over 20 years at The Berry Patch off Exit 25 on the 73/74 North bypass.
Now, with the addition of a new building that is taking shape on the property the Berry Patch is growing again.
“We’re moving from triple scoops to triple production,” said owner Lee Berry.
The new building, that will house a new cooler and a new ice cream maker, is two weeks away from completion and will become the production arm of what has already become a very special place in Richmond County.
“We’ve always felt like the welcoming committee,” said Berry, who grew up in Rockingham but moved to Ellerbe when he was 18 and has always been a solid promoter of the town. He served as mayor of Ellerbe for six years and was responsible for leading a new sewer project as well as several other local ventures.
“Ellerbe has a small-town coziness that can give a family a chance to experience the peacefulness of small-town living. We always want to promote the Ellerbe name and the restaurants and the local stores.”
Berry says that in five years he would like to see Ellerbe moving toward having shopfronts filled with local businesses.
“I continue to buy local (in Ellerbe) even if I must pay a bit more, said Berry.” I want our town to prosper and I think with an updated infrastructure, new signage off the bypass and various other enticements travelers will realize that Ellerbe is a stop over and not just a pass-through.”
Berry has also moved into the baking business and has plan to open his new bakery as a coffee shop in later in the year.
“Our new bakery is located across from the city hall but it’s not open to the public just yet,” said Berry. “We are looking for a fall grand opening and our idea is to have a place where people can stop in for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake or pie. A nice place where people can go to visit with one another where we can certainly build community spirit.”
In the 11 years since the “big move” from a mile south of its current location, The Berry Patch has certainly gained notoriety — including a mention on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” in 2014, and being named North Carolina’s Best Roadside Attraction by Strange Carolinas in both 2019 and 2022.
“When we were in the original location, we were gaining business between 10-15% a year, but people were having trouble getting to us,” Berry said. “Now that we are just off Exit 25, people feel a lot safer when they come to visit.
“Our main goal,” he continued, “is to keep Ellerbe in the forefront of everyone’s minds. We want to see our town prosper and we want to continue to do things for the community that will help us to reach that goal.”
As Poet Rosetti ends her poem, “All ripe together in summer weather, morns that pass by, fair eves that fly, come buy, come by.”
Lee Berry and his wife Amy and children Coleman, Ava and Jack are certainly the unofficial “Ellerbe Welcome Committee,” and in a town over 112 years old, Ellerbe has always remained just that, welcoming.
William R. Toler contributed to this story.