By Cathy Wharton
For Hometown News
Ohhh ... the sweet fragrance of a ripe orange.
In this area, to share that sweet aroma, you can go to one of the biggest exporters of Florida's iconic fruit. Davidson Brothers, a company that specializes in shipping quality tree-ripened citrus.
Founded in 1922 by brothers, Edwin and George Davidson, the business has been a mainstay in Daytona Beach for nearly 92 years. In the heart of the downtown shopping district, it's been at its present address, 248 S. Beach St., since 1937.
In 1996, Tim Minnig and his wife, Nancy, were looking for a business of their own. With a background in the grocery and deli business, they planned to open an Italian grocery store in Ormond Beach. Though the deal fell through, a chance encounter turned things around.
"I had been coming in (to Davidson's) every day for two weeks to buy orange juice," Mr. Minnig said. "I had also been looking to buy a family business. I asked the owner (Bourke Davidson) if he knew of anything available."
Mr. Minnig learned that, because of illness, Mr. Davidson had been looking to sell the business.
When he offered to buy the long-time establishment, Mr. Davidson agreed and the property changed hands.
Though the Davidsons are no longer there, it is still a family-run business. The Minnig's son and daughter also play key roles in the day-to-day operation. Both are in the shipping part of the business. While his sister handles the store end of the process, Tim Jr. makes the drive to Canaveral to pick up fresh fruit. His regular trips, usually four times a week, bring home sizable loads, not only of oranges (temple, naval and Valencia), but also the ever-popular "honey bells," or tangelos, plus tangerines and grapefruit, both white and pink varieties.
For the Minnigs, just as it was for the Davidsons, only the finest citrus will do. All of it is Florida grown, specifically in the Indian River region. In fact, 98 percent of Davidson's products are self-grown or Florida grown. None are imported from other states or countries.
Over its many years of operation, Davidson's has become known as offering the best citrus to be found anywhere. With shipping as a main source of income, Davidson's pays close attention to its export customers, many of whom extend across the country and beyond.
"We ship all over the U.S. and Canada -- starting in November, to the end of May," Mr. Minnig said.
The peak season for the business is, of course, the holidays. That's when Davidson's shifts into high gear. During this time, about 10,000 to 12,000 boxes of fresh citrus are shipped to various destinations around the country and to Canada. In addition to traditional gift giving by individuals, about 20 percent of the purchases during the holiday season is comprised of employers who give gifts to their employees.
Immediately available is fruit by the half bushel and quarter bushel; also gift baskets and boxes, various citrus trays and towers, and samplers. One of the best sellers is a two-layer box of oranges and grapefruit -- a half bushel of sweet Florida citrus.
For orders placed before Dec. 10, shipments are guaranteed to arrive in time for gift giving. Davidson's ships every day up until Christmas, but orders placed after Dec. 10 usually require extra costs to ensure pre-Christmas delivery.
Besides shipping, Davidson's offers a kaleidoscope of gift items and prepared products sure to please anyone. Starting with huge baskets of fresh fruit, Davidson's stocks a number of tempting delights, both for home and as gifts. Included is an ample display of salt water taffy, citrus candy, jellies and marmalades, honey from Edgewater; plus key lime juice (for baking and cooking), Vidalia onion mustard sauce, and bags of fresh pecans -- grown and harvested in neighboring Alabama. There is more, of course, so a visit to Davidson's is a must.
In Florida, citrus peaks in late fall, when the fruit is at its best and ready for market. In winter, the groves continue to hold steady, sans a hard freeze. This ancient cycle ensures a steady crop of sustainable fruit for a long period of time. At Davidson's, however, when the season is over and the crops are less robust, the business closes.
"We close at the end of June and reopen in mid-October," Mr. Minnig said. Indeed, he will not sell fruit unless it's in season. But throughout the period when Davidson's is open for business, the Minnigs consistently donate surplus fruit to needy organizations.
With holiday shopping upon us, what better to give than the gift of health: Fresh Florida citrus from the time-honored Davidson Brothers in downtown Daytona.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday. Phone: (386) 252-7462. Website: davidsonbros.com, or indianrivercitrusgifts.com.