By Ben Lawson
For most people, an orange is an orange. Gene Troyer is trying to show people otherwise by selling fruit in all shapes and sizes across the region.
While working construction in Florida, Troyer got to know grove owners growing genuine Indian River Fruit, including several varieties of oranges and other citrus fruits, like clementines. He saw an opportunity to broaden people’s understanding about fruit.
“That’s what I want people to understand, there’s a lot of variety,” he said.
With the fruit business struggling even in Florida, Troyer loads up the produce and hauls it to East Tennessee.
His starting point is The Great Smokies Flea Market in Kodak, from where he branches out to the surrounding communities. When coming to areas like Seymour, he keeps up the supply for friends and family who set up shop along Chapman Highway beside Auto Zone.
The locations may change, but the fruit is the same.
“It’s all from Ma & Pa groves, not from big companies,” he said.
He said his goal is not to compete with the local grocery stores, but to offer a variety that they don’t carry. On his last trip from Florida, he brought back about 9,000 pounds of citrus fruit and has probably gone through half.
A 10 pound bag sells for $8, eight pounds goes for $6, and $0.99 will buy one pound. Customers are free to mix and match what they take in each bag.
The oranges are a radiant color, which Troyer indicated was the result of no gassing or coloring; the fruit is all natural. He said people are surprised to learn that the fruit can last for three or four weeks and still retain their fresh flavor.
Although Troyer relies on positive word-of-mouth to draw in new faces, he does have a Web site at floridaorangeman.com and said to look him up at the flea market. Although Troyer travels quite a bit himself, the stand in Seymour will be open Tuesdays through Thursdays and on the weekends.
In the meantime, Troyer will be selling oranges until February. When strawberries become available early next year, he’ll have those, too.
“If everything works out, it could be year round,” he said.
Fresh Take on Fruit
By Ben Lawson