A strong produce distributor and restaurant for more than 40 years, K. Hall and Sons stands tall as an important community hub and one of the city’s most respected establishments. All this week, Rock City Eats is celebrating black-owned businesses in Little Rock’s food scene that provide diversity, passion and excellence on an everyday basis. This is the first in a five-part series.
There are few Little Rock business like K. Hall and Sons Produce. Besides its unique produce stand/grocery store/restaurant setup, K. Hall is impossible to separate from its community. It’s a cornerstone, one that is impossible to imagine the Wright Avenue neighborhood without. From open to close, customers and delivery trucks come and go, shouting orders for ham hocks over the meat counter, picking over fresh lettuce and squashes, or stopping in just to grab a burger and say hello. It will be a rare moment to walk into K. Hall and be the only customer there.
“We’ve been here so long, we’ve been able to establish a relationship with people in the neighborhood,” says David Hall, owner of K. Hall and Sons Produce. “They expect us to be here. The kids, so many kids we’ve seen grow up and are now adults. A lot of people look at us as a staple of their lives.
“There was a professor in here the other night, he gave his students an assignment to write a paper. One of the students wrote about K. Hall. He said when he was reading it, she talked about being part of the community and how she loves to come here.”
David’s father Knoxie Hall was a farmer in Wrightsville when he first started Hall’s Produce at a former gas station on Wright Avenue in the mid-1970s. Together with his wife Estella, Knoxie Hall started out just by bringing his own produce to his store, eventually adding fruits and vegetables from other Arkansas farmers. Estella Hall ran the grocery store while Knoxie worked on other business ideas until the 1980s, when David and his brother Curtis began running the operation. They changed the name to K. Hall and Sons Produce and began delivering produce and foodstuffs around Central Arkansas. For David, it was a chance to run the business he had been working at since he was a little boy.
“I didn’t have a choice, I was working here,” says David Hall with a chuckle.
K. Hall’s biggest business is in delivering and selling produce, but it’s also well known for selling prepared food. K. Hall’s burgers have almost a cult following, as does its Seafood Saturday, when David Hall and his family cook up crawfish, shrimp and crabs to sell to a line of waiting customers. David Hall says most of his restaurant business started by accident.
“Most of the food that we cook now, we actually started out cooking for ourselves,” says David Hall. “And people would come in and say, ‘Hey, is that for sale?’ That’s how the burgers and the shrimp started.”
While K. Hall is one of the most loved and respected businesses around, by both customers and other business owners, it hasn’t all been positive. Like most of the black business owners we spoke with for this series, David Hall had a story come immediately to mind when asked about racism against him or his company. And also like most we talked to, he refused to let it slow him down.
“One time in particular, one of the largest food service companies in Little Rock called a company out of Texas and told them, if they valued them as a customer, don’t sell us (K. Hall) anything else. I asked the guy, ‘What are you going to do?’ I couldn’t make him come.
“So I told him, ‘If you don’t come, somebody else will. It’s not going to stop us from getting to where we want to get.’
“I don’t let them bother me, because if you let them get to you, all that’s going to do is drag you down. You have to set goals, and regardless of what anybody else is doing to you or whatever, you have to just press forward.”
What keeps David Hall pressing forward is a combination of family and faith. K. Hall and Sons puts the family in the business model as well as the name. David Hall took over the business from his father and mother, and his sisters, sons and other family members work various jobs within the company. When Knoxie and Estella Hall were honored with enshrinement in the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, their seven children, 16 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren all came together to celebrate the honor.
“You always have to depend on your family,” says David Hall. “If you can’t depend on them, you won’t be able to depend on anybody. They’re going to be there for you, for the most part, all the time. It’s important to me to have my sons involved. They’ve always been there for me to help me out. They’ve sacrificed a lot.”
On his right arm, David Hall wears a rubber bracelet with a passage from the book of Mark: “All things are possible to those who believe.” He says that’s the motto he lives his life by.
“Everything goes through that, without that, nothing is possible,” says David Hall. “I always keep that in perspective, to put God first. There have been a bunch of times in my life when I feel like I’m really struggling. But once I started putting God in my life, putting him first, I could see it turn around.”