Like many men, I don’t like to shop. I am blessed in that I married a wonderful woman, who also does not like to shop, providing one less opportunity for contention in our marriage. However, I have had two shopping experiences in my life that I have found astonishing.
Several years ago Mrs. LanceAround and I took a trip to London. I was dumb enough to order new shoes for the trip. When they were a wee bit too tight I was even dumber to believe that the leather would stretch. Walking around the Victoria & Albert Museum, however, my feet finally lost and the shoes won. We asked one of the guards where the nearest shoe store was. She told us that Harrods was just a few blocks down the road.
I painfully walked those few blocks, dreading the shopping more than the pain in my feet. I was not prepared for just how incredible a place Harrods was. We bought new shoes (actually walking sandals), browsed the bookstore, found the chocolate shop, marveled at the Egyptian department, ate at the cafe, bought souvenirs and even bumped into Mohamed Al Fayed and his bagpipe band in a back stairway.
Harrods was a remarkable place.
Turn the clock ahead to this year and we find ourselves with another remarkable shopping experience. This time we are driving down a back road to Everglade’s National Park when we encounter a building with the words “Robert is Here Fruit Stand” in large letters across the top.
About ten times larger than your typical roadside fruit stand, Robert is Here features large square tables piled high with fresh oranges, watermelons, avocados, papayas and other assorted fruits and vegetables. There is also a section of packaged foods such as rum cakes, honey, jellies and a wide selection of Robert is Here branded sauces. There is an enclosed section with a counter that makes fresh milkshakes in such exotic flavors as passion fruit, guava and their local favorite, key lime. And, reminiscent of a scene from the movie Pulp Fiction, every milkshake was priced at five dollars.
Walk out back and the store becomes a mini tourist attraction. There are large Macaws and parrots, some of which greet you with a “hello.” There is a free petting area featuring donkeys, emus, various other farm animals and a couple of roosters who frequently crow. Beyond the farm animals are cultivated farmland that appears to provide much of what is sold.
I asked one of the employees how much of what they sell is actually grown there. He noted that it is important to keep the store stocked, even in the off season, so they do need to frequently import items from far away. He did say, however, that their mission was to buy as much local food as possible to support the local farmers and they also grow a small amount of what they sell themselves.
The literature at the store notes that Robert was six years old when, approximately 50 years ago, he set up a stand to sell food at this very corner. Business was not good the first day, so his father made a big sign that said “Robert is Here” the next day and, as they say, the rest is history.
I did not see Robert on either occasion that I visited his stand. But I did note that whoever is in charge of the fruit stand has an incredible entrepreneurial knack for advertising. There are large, brightly colored signs everywhere that do a great job of making customers feel welcome, hungry and wanting to try the various items. Even the birds and the farm animals have wood carved signs telling you who they are. There are several old farm vehicles strategically placed around the building to give it a nostalgic, homey feeling. One tractor can be used to sit on to pose for pictures beneath a sign proclaiming, “Still plays with tractors.”
Mrs. LanceAround wondered if I was going to write a positive review of this place. I noted that I was and she was a little disappointed mainly because she felt as though the cage animals looked lonely and sad as they were put on display for the public. I agreed with her and said I would mention both that and the fact that this place may present an image of a small, local fruit stand, but the reality is that they are like most stores, stocking wares imported from all over the world.
Still, I found the place relaxing, entertaining, delicious and worthwhile. One thing I am certain of, however, is this:
This blog will be the only review in the entire world where a writer recommends two places for shopping and one is Harrods in London and the other is Robert is Here Fruit Stand just outside the Everglade’s National Park!