Cleckler’s owners look ahead after car drives into building

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

The life of the business owner is filled with long hours, a lot of hard work and sometimes the unexpected can turn their worlds upside down.

The Clecklers know that all too well.

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Late Saturday night, a Selma man in a stolen car tried to get away from police, made a sharp turn off Dallas Avenue north onto Lauderdale Street, but he didn’t make the turn. The late model Nissan Altima left the street and nearly demolished the fruit and vegetable stand.

Dallas County Sheriff’s Deputy Billy Wright was injured in the chase when an innocent driver slammed his patrol car. His injuries weren’t serious, a sheriff’s department spokesman said.

Irene Cleckler and her son, Gary, did what they could Tuesday afternoon. Gary made deliveries of produce around town, and his mother came in with some rutabagas.She said they have owned and operated their business for almost 30 years. Before that, her father Leonard Cleckler sold produce on the street corner from his pickup.

“It’s been a lot of work,” she said. “I used to work seven days a week until my son came home to help out. He owns the business now.”

Gary Cleckler said he was waiting Tuesday for a contractor to come by and give him an estimate of what it would cost to rebuild the front of their business. They had insurance. It covered natural disasters, and in the event someone slipped and fell the business was covered. But it didn’t cover a stolen car crashing into their livelihood and turning their world upside down.

“My insurance agent said, ‘Why don’t you just close?’ We can’t do that,” she said. “This is our living.”

Gary Cleckler said even if he had to do it himself, Cleckler’s Produce would be open for business by Monday.

“I came down here about eight years ago to help my mom out,” Gary said. “We’ve had small problems before, but nothing like this.”

No business is immune to crime. One night someone cut their gate, came inside and dumped a 50-pound sack of peanuts on the floor, filled it with shelled pecans and left.

The point of entry is now a pile of debris. The damage was not as bad as it could have been, Gary


“If it hadn’t been for that pole, he would have run right on into the cooler,” Gary said. “I don’t know what we would have done then.”

Deandre Jerome McDole, 21, was arrested and charged with receiving stolen property and criminal mischief.