Last time on “The Road Back Home”, we passed James Meredith’s place as we rode through Sumner. James is an institution around here. He started working a vegetable stand in Gainesville in the early 70’s. After a few rough encounters with landlords and over zealous competitors, he settled in the Otter Creek area.
In the 80’s he made his appearance in Cedar Key. Thanks to Mary Yarnell and some other locals, James got over some rough times and made Cedar Key his main place of business. He sets his veggie stand up twice a week beside the post office next to Gypsy’s. His major secret is shopping for the right vegetables and fruit, the type that will sell at the quality that we want. He buys just at the right time so that when he opens his stand the freshness is correct.
He does not have walk-in coolers or large storage facilities so his buying trips are critical to his business success. He travels across the panhandle and into Georgia and down to Tampa and Plant City and other points for his veggies. Ask him and he will tell you about the quality of the produce, the price he had to pay, the reason they have gone up a dollar or the reason he can’t get what you might want.
People say the tomatoes in Florida are not good. Wrong. James can find them. And those large, green bell peppers are hard to match. And so are the potatoes, the yellow squash, the grapefruit, the sweet corn when the fresh crop shows up. He’ll give you the names for the types he offers and what to expect on the next trip.
He works out of the back of his truck, an Isuzu Pup. That truck is loaded down every Tuesday and every Friday morning and is usually empty when he pulls out in the evening. What he may have left over he will sell at a discount or pass on to the neighbors where he lives.
James is an institution. He is so much Cedar Key. For a year or so, he has talked often about retiring. I think he wants to move back to his home area in the northern panhandle. Patrima, his daughter who helps him with the stand, says she’s not going. She likes it here.
I talked with James earlier this week. We are in luck. He will be here through the season and maybe through the winter. So the space next to the post office beside Gypsy’s will for a little while still hold James, Patrima, the Isuzu Pup, and those veggies and fruits we all like so much. Thank you James. Thank you.
Father’s Day is this Sunday. I bet when you were younger your dad took you fishing or to the picture show or maybe just out for a Coke and a hot dog. So this Sunday why not take him out fishing or to the picture show or for a Coke and a hot dog. Or maybe just give him a call. Or maybe just remember for a little while.
So, for now I need to be out there. Trouble lurks somewhere in Cedar Key and I’ll be trying to find it.
Copyright © by Gene Benedict 18 October 2017