Jabril Faraj
Milwaukee Stories

“You’re always meeting people.”

From his watermelon stand, Douglas Moore chats up all the customers -- even the grumpy ones.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Aug 1st, 2014 12:49 pm
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Douglas Moore poses with watermelons at the stand he tends on Sherman Boulevard and Capitol Drive.

Douglas Moore poses with watermelons at his stand on Sherman Boulevard and Capitol Drive.

Douglas Moore tends Baylor’s Watermelons stand on the corner of Capitol and Sherman in the Roosevelt Grove neighborhood.

“After I retired I just left home one day to go and get a watermelon and ended up working selling watermelon,” says Moore.

The way he ended up doing this might sound like chance – it was anything but.

Moore grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and lived there until he was about 30 years old. He’s worked in grocery stores much of his life.

In 1971, Moore decided to come to Milwaukee in search of work. “Lots of my friends and classmates were up here so I decided to give it a try, come up here, been here ever since,” he says.

The 72-year-old Moore has worked other jobs, including construction, but grocery work holds a special place in his heart.

“I got to be the manager of the grocery store and I would have a meeting with the employees every Monday morning,” he recalls. “You’ve got 15 or 20 employees. If you never have a meeting with them, you don’t know how they’re doing, you don’t know how their customers are going to be treated.”

That’s the key, says Moore. “You’ve gotta find out, ‘How’s your customer being treated?’ Are they going to come back or are they going somewhere else?”

“By the cashier and the bag boy you should have that customer pleased so they’ll come back. That’s how you make your money.”

Some might call him old-fashioned.  Moore wouldn’t mind that; to him, that’s simply the way things should be done.

“That’s how I was raised, that’s how I was raised. I don’t care how you treat me but it’s how I treat you – that’s the main thing. You know, every time you see me you can say, ‘I’m gonna be mean to him,’ but as long as I show you kindness, love, you’re gonna keep coming back.”

And that, Moore says, is the way you change someone’s mind. “A guy used to come through here walking every day. Every day he’d come through and I’d always speak to him. He’d look, wouldn’t even speak. I kept speaking, kept speaking, now every time he comes through here he’s speaking. Suppose if I’d have been like him – stopped speaking – he, then, wouldn’t be speaking to me… he comes here all the time, now.”

But, even though he loves his work, there’s something else he’d like to do before he’s gone. Moore, who’s from a family of 17, has a few kids himself and yearns for the simple ways of the past. He doesn’t just want to sell food – he wants to grow it.

“What I’d like to do is buy me like 20 acres of land down south – because I couldn’t do it up here – go back down there and plant cotton, corn, soy beans, oats, have a nice garden, watermelon patch, pea patch… everything and just show them how life was back then,” he says.

“If I had the money, I would do it.”

For more profiles of real Milwaukeeans by Jabril Faraj check out milwaukeestories.org. If you’d like to help support these stories, please consider becoming a member of Milwaukee Stories.

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