There aren’t many patches of Old Florida left in the busy Orlando metro area. But smack dab in the heart of Maitland’s commercial district, you’ll find this throwback: Hollieanna Groves. And boy, is it a gem!
It is located on the bend in US Highway 17–92 just north of Lake Lily. It has served locals for the past 72 years, selling and shipping locally-produced fruits, honey, jams, and other products.
The business was founded in 1950 by Hollie N. Oakley and his wife, Anna Oakley — the combination of their first names gives its distinctive moniker. The Oakleys were originally from Indiana.
Hollie Oakley began his career as a grocery stockboy before climbing his way up to manager in Indianapolis. He moved to Terre Haute and opened his first store in 1909. He was one of the first in the country to pioneer the self-service grocery store, converting to that model at least by 1917.
Eventually, their empire expanded to 58 Oakley Economy Stores in small towns around the Midwest. To service their stores, they ran a central bakery, ice cream plant, warehouse, and distribution system to bring produce from local farms to their storefronts across Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky.
The operation merged with Kroger in 1939, and Hollie became a major shareholder in the chain, which today is the largest grocery chain in the United States. The Oakleys opened a chain of drug stores and other investments in the 1940s.
The Oakley family first began to winter in Maitland and Winter Park in 1927, gradually spending longer periods in Florida. They used it as an opportunity to acquire real estate in Florida — a move that added substantially to the Oakley Corporation’s millions.
Today there is a subdivision known as Hollieanna Shores, north of Lake Maitland. And the large shopping complex at Fairbanks and 17–92 in Winter Park is known as Hollieanna Center. The Oakley family still owned the plaza until 2014, when Publix purchased it for $24M.
The couple started Hollieanna Groves after they retired full-time to Florida. It was open for business by at least 1950. This included the salesroom, packing house, and the actual groves.
The building dates back to 1947, and its appearance hasn’t changed much since then. The front portion of the facility functions as the store, while the larger section in the back still operates as the fruit packinghouse.
The aging grocers quickly realized the citrus business did not suit them as they headed into their sunset years. They sold the business to Herbert (Tony) and Lindsley Hunter three years after the grand opening in 1953. The brother-sister team, who grew up on West Lake in Longwood, only lasted a couple of seasons in the tough business before selling it to Glenn Lingle Jr. in 1954.
It has been with the Lingle family ever since!
The Lingle family has resided in Seminole County for five generations. Two rounds of Glenn Alfred Lingle were captains of the Seminole High football squads in Sanford: the elder graduating in 1920 and his son in 1945.
After graduating from the University of Florida, Junior moved back to Seminole County. He married Jane Phyllis Day Lingle in 1954, and the two went into the citrus business together shortly after that!
Originally the family grew all of the fruit in their groves in Seminole County, but the freezes of the mid-1980s forced them to diversify their geography further south. Today they lease 90 acres of groves near Geneva and own another 100 acres down in Fort Pierce.
Various types of citrus are grown, including tangerines, navels, honeybells, amber sweets, temples, valencias, and grapefruit. It is brought from the family farm on trucks in old-fashioned wood crates to Maitland, where it is sorted and packed by hand. The juice — oh, that delicious juice!! — is fresh-squeezed on site. The pure unpasteurized flavor takes you back to childhood. It is nothing like the additive-filled, frozen, or from-concentrate stuff you get at the grocery store.
Glenn and Jane had four children: Phyllis, Kurt, Jason, and Alinda. They inherited their parents’ love for agriculture and customer service, working at the farm stand from as young as first grade.
Today Kurt, Jason, and Alinda still run the day-to-day operations. Kurt is the grove manager, Jason runs the packing house, and Alina manages the store. The next generation is close behind, with their children now taking shifts!
Hollieanna Groves was inducted into the Central Florida Culinary Hall of Fame in 2011 for their years of serving up Florida’s finest. Sadly the family’s patriarch, Glenn, passed away in 2015 at 86 years old. He loved the business and poured his heart into it for 60 years.
“The face of agriculture has really changed over the last 50 years,” Alinda told the Orlando Sentinel, “but my dad wanted to ensure we were still getting quality. He wanted that to stay the same. He had a very good work ethic, and he was a very honest man and very generous.”
The Lingle’s store is open for business from November through April while the citrus harvest is underway. Different citrus varieties are rotated throughout the season when each is at its peak ripeness.
In addition to the fruit and juices, many other Florida-made products are offered. You’ll find lots of raw local honey. There are jams, marmalades, fruit butters, and sauces. They’ve got gourmet pickles and alligator jerky. In the freezer are varieties of Key Lime Pie products, courtesy of the famous Kermit’s of Key West. They have citrus-based candies, lotions, and perfumes.
Needless to say (since I’m writing an article about it the same day), I loved it! The prices were great too. I picked up two tangerines, a jug of juice, apple butter, and citrus-scented hand lotion, all for under ten bucks!
You will love the charm of this place. It is an anachronism of a simpler time in Central Florida’s not-too-distant rural history. Amazingly, the Lingle family has persisted in this tradition with all the sprawl and soaring real estate prices around it. We must support them and keep them in business for another generation or two!
Please shop small and support local businesses. Make a point to visit the Lingle family and their Hollieanna Groves store. Pick up some of their Florida farm-to-table goodness. You won’t regret it!