Josh Shaffer

Vile bandits pilfer North Raleigh produce stand

Bobbie Maniscalco, left and her mother Joanmarie lost a pair of generators plus cash and a tablet after a robbery at Crazy Lady’s Produce Stand over Labor Day weekend. They thank the community for support and could use more.
Bobbie Maniscalco, left and her mother Joanmarie lost a pair of generators plus cash and a tablet after a robbery at Crazy Lady’s Produce Stand over Labor Day weekend. They thank the community for support and could use more. jshaffer@newsobserver.com

When the Crazy Lady started her North Raleigh produce stand, she ran the whole business out of a tent with a few tiny electric fans.

Once the operation grew, she graduated to a makeshift building no bigger than a shed, fashioned out of sheet metal, powered by a pair of generators with the coolers attached to extension cords.

For a long time, she didn’t even lock up the vegetables at night, trusting her cabbages to people’s better natures.

“We’d come out in the morning and find money tucked with little notes: I got a cantaloupe for $2,” said Joanmarie Maniscalco, who runs Crazy Lady’s Fresh Produce Stand on Six Forks Road. “That’s what makes this all so sad.”

You’ve probably guessed by now that somebody robbed this adorable business. Some creature tore open the door on Saturday night, swiped a tablet from inside, stole some petty cash and – this is the unkindest cut — made off with a pair of generators that powered the place.

Even for thieves, this theft stinks. If you’ll rob a produce stand, why not take a kid’s bicycle or bust into a church? Is there a business that qualifies as more wholesome, more do-it-yourself, more ought-to-be-exempt from burglary than a place that sells zephyr squash for $1.25 a pound and will let you buy half a watermelon if you ask nicely? Senior citizen centers take field trips to Crazy Lady’s by bus, you pilferers!

And before you theorize that this was a crime of desperation committed by starving vagrants:

“We thought it was odd they didn’t take any food,” Maniscalco said.

The humble stand occupies a corner of the parking lot opposite a gas station just north of I-540, where Maniscalco has worked for nine years, six as its owner, aka Crazy Lady. Their food comes from farms in Dunn, Garner, Clinton and on into Sampson County. Even though she’d never had an unwanted visitor, she kept the office locked and eventually put lattice around the outdoor goods.

With the generators gone, Crazy Lady’s couldn’t run the coolers, the electronic scales, the credit card reader – anything. One kind soul named Dan Davis let them borrow a generator for the last few weeks they’ll be open, and supporters donated some much appreciated cash, but the need is greater. So Bobbie Maniscalco, Joanmarie’s daughter, put out a plea on gofundme.com. As of Thursday night, they’d raised $705 of the $3,000 they seek.

“We’re a mom and pop business,” Joanmarie said. “We’re not getting rich. We all have to look for winter jobs.”

I’m hoping vainly that those stolen generators will return to Crazy Lady’s this morning, along with an apologetic sticky note. But as that’s unlikely to happen, I hope the thieves in question choke on a cucumber.

Want to help?

To assist Crazy Lady’s Fresh Produce, see www.gofundme.com/443kj5ng. Also, visit the produce stand’s Facebook page for more information.

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