Shoppers at Mission Fresh Fashion this summer often leave the store with more than something colorful to wear.
They may also take home something flavorful to eat.
As Becky Hanf rings up purchases at the cash register, her husband, Ray Hanf, may offer customers their choice of vegetables from his garden.
“Becky and Ray have given me a lot of tomatoes, zucchini and beets,” said Paula Brunner, a shopper from Merriam.
Tomatoes, onions, beets, yellow squash as well as herbs — Ray Hanf grows it all in a 1,600-square-foot plot on the Hanfs’ six acres in Kansas City, Kan.
Although shoppers may be surprised by the vegetables, fresh produce in their clothing store is not a new concept to the Hanfs. In fact, that’s how the store started 20 years ago.
When Ray Hanf, 59, opened the store at 6011 Johnson Drive in 1998, it was called Fresh Produce because that was the name of the clothing line the store carried.
Adding a wall with baskets of bananas, oranges, apples, lemons, limes and other vegetables and fruits seemed a good way to complement the bright colors of the clothing: “Fresh Produce, the wearable, and fresh produce, the edible,” Becky Hanf, 58, explained.
“The first time I walked in, I couldn’t believe that I could buy clothes and fresh corn, cantaloupe and tomatoes at the same time,” said Jan Riley, 64, from Shawnee.
Over the years, the Hanfs expanded to carry additional lines of clothing, and by 2010 they no longer sold fruit and vegetables in the store and they no longer sold only Fresh Produce clothing.
To represent a wider variety of lines, the Hanfs changed the store’s name to Mission Fresh Fashion in 2012.
What hasn’t changed over the years is the Hanfs’ concept of customer service.
The Hanfs “always greet their customers with a smile and a helpful attitude,” said Marcy Reinecker, 71, of Shawnee. “My husband says I return from shopping at their store with a big smile.”
Ray Hanf shares the bounty of his garden with Fresh Fashion shoppers, and Becky Hanf provides tips for food preparation.
“Becky told me about recipe for zucchini fritters and also how to cook beets,” Brunner said.
Riley recalls Ray Hanf standing ready with a bottle of cold water for her when she made the store a stop on her morning run.
Both Riley and Brunner have been shopping at the store since it opened. Brunner remembers the store’s coolers with fruits and vegetables and Ray’s guacamole that she bought when the store had a kitchen at one of its locations.
Shoppers have followed Fresh Produce to three locations on Johnson Drive and one on the Country Club Plaza.
The Hanfs like their location at 6102 Johnson Drive, where they’ve been since 2010.
“We’re centrally located,” said Becky Hanf. “We’re three miles from State Line and 15 minutes from the north and 15 minutes from the south.”
Ray brought to the business work history as a produce supervisor for a wholesale grocer and experience as a vegetable gardener since grade school. Becky brought marketing expertise.
They worked together for two years before marrying on July 3, 2000. Ever mindful of tending the store, they chose the date so they could take the next day off.
Even when the Hanfs plan a vacation and close the store, they’re talking shop.
“We’re always brainstorming and coming up with new ideas,” Becky Hanf said.
In October 2017, the Hanfs went to Florida to visit friends — and to talk with owners of 20 other mom-and-pop women’s clothing stores they identified before they left Kansas.
The Hanfs visited boutique-sized stores like their own and came away with new ideas for Fresh Fashion.
They discovered, for example, one-size jeans, added a 4-by-4-foot ottoman for customers’ comfort in the shoe section, put throw rugs down throughout the store and started stacking jeans in piles rather than hanging them on racks.
Despite the vivid array of colors on shelves and racks, the Hanfs choose not to blend in. They stand out in uniforms of white polo shirts and jeans.
That was a decision they made, Becky Hanf said, “so people would understand why there’s a man in a women’s clothing store.”
Mission Fresh Fashion is one of more than 100 merchants participating in the Mission Sunflower Festival on Aug. 24 and 25.
During the festivities, visitors can register at the store for prizes.