Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Robert is Here!

Caught this in today's paper...............

From the Miami Herald
Posted on Mon, Aug. 02, 2010

Redland's Robert Is Here fruit market celebrates 50 years


Heather Levy, on left, stocks up on unusual fruits to take to her family reunion in Utah with the help of owner Robert Moehling at Robert Is Here, Fruit Stand and Farm on Tuesday, July 27, 2010, in Florida City.

Fifty years ago, Playboy opened its first club, John F. Kennedy defeated Richard M. Nixon and Bob and Mary Moehling sent their little boy into the fields in deep South Miami-Dade to sell cucumbers culled from their farm.

Robert Moehling, now 57, is still there -- with his four grown children, and cucumbers are moving just fine, thanks to the family's brilliant scheme to get attention from passersby: a hand-scrawled sign near the boy reading ``Robert is here.''

Cukes are just one of the 50 fruits and vegetables -- along with homemade breads, pies and fruit smoothies -- the Moehlings grow and sell at their corner stand, Robert Is Here, near Florida City on the road heading to Everglades National Park.

The open-air market is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It has a much larger counter today -- along with a petting zoo with goats, donkeys and turkeys out back, and, on the weekends, musicians out front -- plus customers who come from the 50 states and beyond.

``It's old school, reminds me of my childhood,'' said David Wong, 40, of Kendall, on a recent afternoon with friends visiting from Vancouver.

Vladimir and Olga Voronovich moved to Homestead three years ago from Russia and soon discovered Robert's. The open-air oasis beats the brutal weather of Siberia, Vladimir says, as grandkids Monica, 4, and Sofia, 3, visit the petting zoo.

On any given weekend day, Moehling's milkshake concession sells up to 1,400 creamy treats, he says. Even on a Tuesday, when the world's at work, the stand sells about 500 shakes at $5.35 a pop.

``These are the best milkshakes in town,'' said Paul Messina, a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue chief, of his strawberry-key lime blend.

Seven days a week, Robert is here, giving tips on the proper way to eat fruit you may never heard of.

That huge, green bumpy ball with spikes? A jackfruit, Moehling explains. The brown seed pod? Tamarind.

``That was my Soup Patch candy,'' Moehling tells Heather Levy as he cracks open the tamarind and instructs his customer on how to enjoy the tart fruit. Both dig in.

Levy, simultaneously celebrating her 50th, eats it up -- fruit and tales. She's here from her Key Largo home, with her mom, Faith Greaves, who is visiting from Reno. Every year their family has a reunion in Utah, and Levy is stocking up on mangoes, avocados and amenities for the festivities.

``I'm bringing fruit from Robert Is Here,'' she said. ``That's my contribution. They will freak out!''

Craig Clevenger drove in from Miami at the request of the chief of a Lakota Indian tribe who wants mangoes for a coming Sundance ritual in Austin, Texas. ``He asked specifically for Florida mangoes; they are going to a really special place,'' Clevenger said.

Charles Sauther has been coming to Robert Is Here since Robert was barely bigger than one of his jackfruit.

``Ever since Robert opened I've been stopping in here -- when it was a shed. I've watched the changes over the years. Four years ago I moved to the Panhandle, but when I come to the Keys I always stop in here for mangoes or avocados. There's nothing like a good mango or a good avocado, and you can't buy 'em in a grocery store; it's not the same,'' Sauther said.

Moehling offers the traditional, from tomatoes and mangoes, to the exotic, including guanabanas, mamey, monstera, carambolas and canestel (a k a egg fruit).

Those he grows himself. Caimito (a k a star apples,) dragon fruit, key lime and sapodillas are grown for him locally.

``What's significant about my 50th anniversary is I'm only 57 years old,'' Moehling said. ``I basically ran this when I was a little kid. My mom taught me that I had to do it on my own. As a little kid, I learned to add, what I needed to buy and what I could sell it for. It was teamwork.''

Those are lessons Moehling has shared with his own family.

``We started when we were all 11,'' eldest son Brandon Moehling said.

There are two sons, two daughters, ages 21 to 27.

``We had cribs here and high chairs and grew up around here,'' Brandon says, casting his gaze out from the front entrance that, on weekends, is lined with Deere tractors and a musician singing Jimmy Buffett, Eagles and Simon & Garfunkel.

``Our lines are long, thank goodness. We can't go faster, so we want to entertain them while they are here,'' Moehling says.

Brandon's responsible for two of the grandchildren -- Mason and Jackson. Another two are on the way. Both daughter Victoria and Heather, Brandon's wife, are due in January.

``A lot of businesses are not family anymore, but the whole family is still here working -- and making more kids to do it,'' Heather teases, as she pats her stomach. ``It's the next generation coming up. It means we've got to figure a way to do it for 50 more years.''

19200 SW 344th St., Redland 33034


ghostwriter33156 said...

I loved that place when I lived in Miami. In high school, my bf Lisa McKay and I would drive all the way down there for veggies. LOL the first time we went, she asked me which trees were the "cucumber trees".

I wonder if they have Seagrape grandmother used to make it, and the last time I had it was at the farmers market in The Redlands. If y'all ever see any, try it. Yummmmmy. Its an old Miami pioneer thing.

THANKS for this post. Brings back old memories, especially as I am also celebrating..I mean in denial..about being 50.

ghostwriter33156 said...

I googled seagrape jelly and found MY Nana's recipe on this person's blog. Weird...I have no idea who writes this blog but our Nanas are remarkably alike.

A bit off topic, but had to add it.

SwampAngel65 said...

Last time I went there, I asked Robert what happened to the seagrape jelly he used to sell. Well, he doesn't sell it anymore. Seems it just got too hard to get enough seagrapes together to make decent batches of it. Bummer. My grandma used to make it and I miss it alot.

I will check out that blog you linked to. maybe one day if I ever find enough of them, I'll try making some myself.

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