THORP, Wash. — You can’t miss it as you drive I-90 — the big white building with the big red letters. The Thorp Fruit & Antique Mall is about 6 miles west of Ellensburg, and it’s the perfect place to fuel up with some fresh produce.
Time it right and you can even get Washington-grown asparagus here. This place has been making folks hit the brakes since 1968.
“This is definitely a highway stop for most people, a lot of traffic that comes through so we love to see all the people that come off the freeway and visit us,” said owner Mike Rowley. “We try to bring in the most local, fresh produce we can so if it’s in season we like to try to bring it fresh from the grower, so right now we’ve got asparagus that’s local."
The fat stalks sell for $1.99 a lb. in the spring, and you won’t find any fresher. This place sell more than 30 thousand pounds of it per season.
“This is a great place, we always stop here and pick up fruit,” said customer Janice, with her son Royce, who quickly added, “I’d rather have candy.”
There’s plenty of candy at the fruit stand as well. You can also eat and drink your way through eastern Washington here, with soup mixes from Thorp, snickerdoodles from Buhrmaster Bakery in Zillah, and Iron Horse Beer to take home, brewed in Ellensburg.
So what costs less than a gallon of gas at this Fuel Stop? Salt-water taffy, a scoop of Winegar’s Ice Cream, which is made in Ellensburg and boasts flavors like ‘Redneck Raspberry,' and of course, the place’s namesake.
“The fruit. Usually you can get just about any kind of fruit in there for under three bucks,” Mike said. (As of this writing, $3 was the going rate for a gallon at Shree’s gas station right next door).
This fuel stop veers into roadside attraction territory, from the gigantic plywood letters that Mike puts up himself whenever a new load of something fresh arrives, to the massive flag flying at the gas station next door. Mike says he has heard that the 40 by 80-foot American flag is among the largest in Washington State.
And his favorite thing about running this place to fuel up on fresh food? Giving travelers in a hurry a reason to slow down, and savor this part of Washington.
“They’re driving by at 70 miles on the freeway, if they make a decision to pull in to our store, I want them to have one of the best experiences they can have.”