Maitland Fruit Stand Thrives: Discover Where to Find Fresh Oranges and Grapefruit

Hollieanna Groves, located in Maitland, Florida, is a bustling hub of activity as crate after crate of citrus fruit is rolled into its washing and sorting areas. Navel oranges, red grapefruits, and tangerines are meticulously processed, some destined to be juiced while others are carefully packaged for shipment across the nation, just as they were in the 1950s when the Lingles family first acquired the business. With almost seven decades of operation under their belt, the Lingles strive to maintain the authentic Hollieanna Groves experience, catering to customers who have remained loyal for years. In a rapidly developing Maitland corridor, this small store stands as a testament to Old Florida, a relic of a bygone era.

Jason Lingle, one of the owners, reflects on the family’s deep-rooted connection to the citrus industry. “It’s hard to quit on an industry that has served our family so well for so long,” he concedes. The legacy of Hollieanna Groves began in 1954 when Glenn Lingle purchased the establishment from Hollie and Anna Oakley. From its inception, the business has been a family affair, with Glenn’s wife, Jane, and their children actively participating, particularly during the peak season. Alinda Lingle, the youngest of the siblings, reminisces about their childhood, when they would be taken out of school for two weeks to lend a hand at the groves. The Lingle family’s commitment and dedication to the business were evident from an early age.

As we step into Alinda’s office, a sense of nostalgia fills the air. The walls adorned with old fruit crates and the faded postcard depicting the original Hollieanna Groves store are testaments to the rich history that permeates the establishment. The photograph showcases a vibrant building with a prominent sign that reads “Hollieanna Groves Sales Room” in elegant blue and orange cursive. Palm fronds in the background serve as a reminder that the storefront was once set farther back from the road, before U.S. 17-92 underwent expansion. Alinda remarks, “From here, all the way to where Fort Maitland Park is, that was nothing but orange groves.”

Although the Lingles have strived to maintain tradition, certain aspects of the citrus industry have inevitably evolved over time. For instance, the cost of fruit has substantially increased. Alinda recalls that in 1986, a bushel of oranges, including shipping, amounted to $32.95. Today, the equivalent price is $89.95, excluding shipping. However, Alinda emphasizes that filling a bushel of fruit is now five times more labor-intensive than it was three decades ago. Citrus canker, citrus greening, and aging trees have contributed to a decline in productivity, compelling the Lingles to source fruit from multiple locations. With fewer groves available for purchase, the cost of fruit for consumers continues to rise.

Despite these challenges, the Lingles persist in preserving their heritage. They continue to transport fruit in traditional wooden citrus crates made of dried cypress, a practice that few citrus businesses in Florida still uphold. Jason explains that these crates offer superior protection, minimizing bruising and pressure on the fruit. Although this method is less lucrative, the Lingles prioritize maintaining the authenticity of their operation.

Hollieanna Groves boasts a wide variety of oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines, with the selection varying depending on seasonality and the fruit’s quality each year. Some of the unique citrus varieties can only be found in Florida, a crucial factor in sustaining the citrus shipping business. The sugar belle, for instance, is an orange-clementine hybrid that was introduced in 2006. This disease-resistant fruit is renowned for its easy peeling, minimal seeds, and exquisite sweetness. While other states may offer decent-quality oranges, the Lingles argue that the freshness of their fruit is unrivaled. When a customer places an order at Hollieanna Groves, the fruit is still on the tree, ensuring unparalleled quality and flavor.

Thousands of orders are shipped through Hollieanna Groves each season, with approximately 65% of sales originating from mail-order requests. While corporate accounts exist, the majority of customers are individuals who continue to send citrus as gifts and purchase for personal consumption. Alinda reveals that some customers have been loyal for over 50 years, making citrus a cherished part of their holiday traditions.

As the Lingles gear up for honeybell season in January 2024, they also face the challenge of celebrating Hollieanna Groves’ 70 years in operation. Despite their weariness, the siblings remain committed to preserving their family business and the essence of Old Florida. They understand that the road ahead will not be easy, but their determination to uphold tradition and deliver unrivaled citrus remains unyielding.

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