For the love of fruit

Local goods store opens off Manchester Road


Media by Brittany Freeman

Located off Manchester Rd, “The Fruit Stand”, owned by Keith Orlando and Lorrin Charbonean, sells various goods from personally known local farmers and vendors. “It’s just a different way of doing business,” he said. “Our’s is more hands-on.”

Keith Orlando was a 17-year-old high school junior when he started his fruit stand with $550 in his back pocket and a small 10×10 foot tent. In one week he made $1,000 selling fresh fruit with his girlfriend, Lorrin Charboneau.

Now, Orlando and Charboneau own “The Fruit Stand,” a brick and mortar building located off Manchester Road. They sell various goods from local farmers and vendors.

“Everyone told me that I was crazy for doing this,” Orlando said. “Everybody else has cheap tents or a $50,000 pole barn, not a half million dollar building.”

Orlando said the transition wasn’t easy either. The old store, Gabi’s Wine and Spirits, refused to leave. But, Orlando had a vision and he was determined to achieve it. After the initial move-in date passed, Orlando took action. He proceeded to pack up their liquor, move it into a storage unit, and start selling fruit from the side of the building.

“Anytime you guys get into a problem, never stop fighting,” Orlando said. “Never take no for an answer.”
So far, Orlando said business has been going well, with the stand averaging a gain of 10 to 40 percent annually since they started in 2007.

From products such as barbecue sauce made by a local customer to tomatoes grown in De Soto by a friend, Orlando and Charboneau pride themselves in stocking their store with items bought straight from farmers.

“It’s just a different way of doing business,” Orlando said. “Ours is more hands-on.”

Mahika Mushuni, freshman, said she is very supportive of organic and locally grown produce for its health benefits and absence of chemicals.

“I feel a lot healthier when I eat from [farmer’s markets],” she said. “I feel they’re probably a lot better for you because it’s naturally grown.

Mushuni said she is excited there is a new produce stand close to her home.

“I’m too cheap for Whole Foods, so the fact there’s a cheaper, local place where I can get healthy foods is really nice,” she said.

As for the month of May, Orlando said it will be the peak season with The Fruit Stand featuring bing cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines and watermelon at good quality and prices.

“It’s always different,” Charboneau said. “There’s always a different season or something new. It’s never the same.”

Charboneau said that when they made the transition to a storefront, she thought they would have a lot different customers, but she was pleased to find that in addition to their new customers many of their old customers continued coming to the new location.

“Since we bought the building, I think people know that we’re not a joke,” Charboneau said. “We’re here to stay.”