HAMLET – As fall approaches, folks are beginning to look forward to getting that first taste of seasonal produce. And there’s no better place in the county to get that produce than from Greg Shelley, better known as “Collard Man.”
Shelley had been selling collards on the same corner in Hamlet for 29 years, but will now be setting up shop in the Hardee’s parking lot in Hamlet, across the street from his previous venue.
Saturday was Shelley’s initial opening for the year. From now on, he will be there every Saturday from 8:30 am-12:00 pm and every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s week.
Though he’s known for his fresh collards, Shelley added that he also sells turnips, potatoes, mustard greens, and occasional pecans and okra. Shelley sells his collards for $4.00 a bunch, with two heads in each bunch.
His brother, Shorty Shelley, also sells produce with him. They both enjoy the camaraderie of the people who stop by.
Shelley is known as the “Collard Man,” not only in Richmond and surrounding counties, but throughout the United States as well. Shelley has shipped collards to Seattle, Washington, Connecticut, and New York. Most recently, he received a Facebook message from a woman in Capitol Heights, Maryland, requesting a shipment of collards.
A customer from Mount Airy, N.C., travels to Hamlet to get collards from the Collard Man.
“She buys 100 bunches at a time,” Shelley said. “And she takes them home, cans them in quart jars, and sells them at flea markets.”
Shelley began his business with 40 bunches of collards and said of that first crop, “I thought I was going to have to eat all 40 of them.” Now, business is booming.
Shelley remembers a time 11 years ago when he became sick. He had fields full of collards and his wife and kids had to sell the collards for him.
“The word spread that I had gotten sick and wasn’t there and I got get-well cards from people all over the country,” Shelley said.
Shelley has also sold to generations of families.
“They continue to come year after year,” Shelley added. “I’ve seen children grow up and it’s become a tradition that they all come down to the ‘collard corner’.”
Shelley always took his children to work with him, now he sometimes takes his three precious grandchildren, ages 5 months, 3, and 5.
Many may not know that Shelley also has quite a hobby. What began for Shelley as a fascination with toy trains, became almost an obsession. He began collecting trains when he was a little boy.
Not surprisingly, as an adult, Shelley worked for CSX until his retirement. Meanwhile, his train collection grew from a room in his home to The Harrington building in Hamlet, known as ‘The Train Room.’ In this room, Shelley’s trains run through miniature towns, farms, villages, lakes, and a campground. He says that “it’s unbelievable,” and invites all to come for a visit.
Shelley is homegrown, just like his produce. Richmond County is encouraged to a valuable resource in the county.