If any of Larkin Forman's customers had met her 25 years ago, they might not have guessed she would someday be tending chickens, selling eggs, fresh produce and local food products from and open-air store in the middle of an East Texas summer.

Back then she would have been decked out in heels, pantyhose, the latest designs from Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom, full hair and makeup. More than likely, customers would have smelled her before you saw her coming because she was a representative for Chanel fragrances, and before that, the regional director for cosmetics and fragrances for Foley's.

Today, Mrs. Forman can be found at Ripe — a fruit and vegetable store that she and her husband, Richard, opened in May on Texas Highway 64 West. The building has been there for years, and it used to be a fruit stand where Tylerites shopped for apples brought in from throughout the U.S.

But these days, the demand is for the freshest, locally-grown products. That is what Mrs. Forman tries to find as she queries her network of area farmers, both large and small, for whatever is fresh from the garden and ready to sell.

On-site, she grows a literal boat-load of herbs and has several chickens for fresh eggs.

"I have always wanted chickens," Mrs. Forman said. "I don't know why. I just love them. They are the funniest animals."

Many of her suppliers are older farmers who can't make it to the market regularly, or even backyard gardeners who grow more than they can eat. She also offers East Texas-produced preserves, dried mushrooms and glasses she makes from recycled soda, wine and beer bottles.

The glasses, she calls Laughing Glass, were inspired from a chef she met when living in Mexico for a few years.

"I just loved these glasses and thought how great it would be to make them for people out of their favorite bottles," Mrs. Forman said.

Mrs. Forman is from Tyler, but she spent many years living around Texas before returning to East Texas. After graduating from TCU with degrees in art history and French, she worked in an art gallery in Fort Worth and was hired by one of her art clients to open the first Pappagallo concept store in Dallas.

This move began a long career in retail, which eventually brought her back to Tyler and to Foley's. As she moved through her career, she was fortunate to work for many people who allowed her to work in a way that was best for her but still have the same end result.

"I think that's a mark of many successful people," Mrs. Forman said. "Being allowed to adapt and learn in a personal way and not the way someone else would do it. It's sort of a Montessori way of working."

"Adapting to change and not being afraid of change is important in life," she said. "The most important things I have learned in life are to be flexible, admit to mistakes, listen to people and don't be afraid to ask questions."

Although she has experienced more than a lifetime of life changes, Mrs. Forman admitted she still hasn't learned enough.

"I still believe I haven't had enough life experiences. I still want more," she said. "And I learn every day from listening to people and hearing about all of their experiences."

She and her husband enjoy all the changes they've experienced in life and have learned to be flexible about the way they earn money in order to afford other luxuries of life, like spending time together.

"I've known him since I was 3 years old, and we both married other people before we realized we were supposed to be together," she said. "We didn't marry each other until we were 38, and I was working a lot of hours back then. It was important then to start cutting back on work.

"We've seen and done a lot, but now it's about simple living. We will always embrace change and look for ways to experience new things."

Ripe is located at 12239 Texas Highway 64 West in Tyler. 903-262-4582. Hours: Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Closed Sunday and Monday.

 

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