Detwiler’s: The Palmetto Garden of Eden

Detwiler's Palmetto farm market
The destination. Probably one of the coolest food destinations, ever.
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Detwiler’s, Palmetto. OK, the lead-in. Where do I start? I guess I should preface all of this by saying this is NOT an advertisement for anyone. I started this newspaper as an information outlet with ZERO agendas. My goal is to communicate just the facts on very special things.

About a month ago, maybe a little more, Renee and I got a call from my very close friend, and ex-wife, Brigitte. Brigitte has become part of our family who I hold as somebody closer than a sister. Brigitte cut Renee’s hair for our wedding and I think that pretty much sums it up. Brigitte told us that she was planning on going to this store in Palmetto, FL, a store that I’ve never heard of before, Detwiler’s Farm Market. She spoke very highly of this place and encouraged us to go there.

Renee and I are always open to new adventures, especially after the COVID-19 lockdown. Palmetto is a mere hop over the Sunshine Skyway bridge which spans the mouth to Tampa Bay. The trip over the Skyway is always a welcome one. The expanse of the vista is breathtaking. From the top of the bridge you can see Tampa, MacDill AFB, St. Petersburg, Palmetto, Anna Maria Island, and the whole of Tampa Bay. This bridge is an interesting story in, and unto, itself. On, May 9, 1980, the 19,734-ton Summit Venture freighter, got lost in fog and slammed into the original bridge, tearing away a large part of the span, which collapsed in the water below. Thirty-five people were killed, most of which were aboard a Greyhound bus that toppled into the water. Today, as you span the (new) bridge your view is marred by a newly constructed fence. A fence to stop people from jumping off the bridge to kill themselves. I won’t make an editorial comment on this, I just thank God that my life hasn’t pushed me to make such a desperate move. But, for the Grace of God.

A VERY Special Place in the World!!

Years ago, I was the Art Director at One Way Apparel. One Way Apparel was a fishing-oriented company based in Palmetto, Florida. We designed apparel for very large sponsors of major fishing tournaments. It was actually a really fun job (in spite of the fact that I don’t fish). I embarked on an experimental design program where I attempted to design patterns for shirts that would be camouflaged to the fish when they were peering up through the water at the fishermen leaning over the side of the boats. Me and “the crew” at One Way would take our lunch breaks in the back of the production warehouse there, behind the very sophisticated (very) large document printer. Just on the other side of our “back yard” was a large Winn-Dixie grocery store. We would often see the workers from the Winn-Dixie hanging out behind the store smoking cigarettes on their lunch break. It was typical Florida. Tropical vegetation, small drainage canals, humid, and hot.

Muffins. Lots of freshly made muffins!
Farm fresh, farm to table brown eggs.

Fast forward. The Winn-Dixie (part of a major chain) closed. When you see a truly significant grocery store like that just close its doors, to say that what I felt was discouraged would truly be an understatement. The girls were no longer out back smoking their cigarettes. There was a saddening emptiness. At the same time, One Way Apparel was headed toward untested territory. One Way had stepped toward a merger. We were merging with the seventh largest apparel production company in the world. The company, Camsing Global, was headquarterd in Largo, Florida. It was physically a really BIG company. Its production facilities and warehouses were vast. I was thrown into the mix as the head of art production and marketing. And I had an immediate task of producing a two-hundred page catalogue complete with graphics, pricing schedules, and products overview, history, and technical specs. All of this using Adobe InDesign which I had never laid eyes on before. I’m not a quitter, I’m a problem solver. The catalogue turned out to be the best one Camsing Global ever produce. If you’re interested, here’s the link to the catalogue: https://www.thefloridapilot.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Camsing_catalog_2014_full.pdf.

Anybody who knows anything about proteins knows what a Tomahawk Steak is, and this is as good as beef gets!

I ended up moving to the beach for this job and that was a blessing in disguise. If it wasn’t for that move, I would never have met the love of my life, Renee. Renee has been my staunch ally through challenging times, markedly COVID-19. COVID-19 has been a horrible disaster bestowed upon people that were unwitting victims. Lives have been lost. Personal economies have crumbled. Dreams have been shattered. You are either an absolute victim of this thing, or you are a survivor. Renee and I chose to be survivors. Renee is currently completing her medical degree, on the Dean’s List, with a consistent 4.0 GPA. I started a business (my parent company) Blue Lion Solutions LLC, the parent to The Florida Pilot. If it wasn’t for COVID-19, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this.

A small corner of Detwiler’s store.
The cheese section at Detwiler’s is bigger than my condo.
Amazingly fresh locally captured fruit straight from the farm.

That was certainly an involved path toward a story. It was a really hot Florida Saturday. Renee and I decided to take Brigitte’s suggestion and do a recon mission on Detwiler’s Farm Market. We were under no obligation to visit this place, and had no pre-scheduled meetings there. In fact, we didn’t know what to expect. We took that beautiful drive over the Skyway that dumped us right into Palmetto. I know Palmetto like the back of my hand. Remember? I had an office there, an office that was situated back-to-back to a (now defunct) Winn-Dixie. I know the back roads. I locked-in a path to this “Detwiler’s” place that would drive us by as many cows as possible (Renee LOVES moo cows). I jumped on the beautiful 16th Avenue E that brought us past beautiful scenery, and cows. It also brought us past my old office which was now EliteRV. I’ve got to tell you, EliteRV is an impressive place. These beautiful Recreational Vehicles are sprawled all over the place. I’m not really an RV guy, but if I were, I would probably check this out first. I get a little satisfaction knowing that the old One Way Apparel building has transformed into a viable business. The old Winn-Dixie is still there, and still void of Winn-Dixie employees.

Shrimp? Yes.
Detwiler’s deli section is second to none.
The jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), also known as jack tree, is a species of tree in the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family (Moraceae). Its origin is in the region between the Western Ghats of southern India, all of Sri Lanka and the rainforests of Malaysia, and it’s here.
Taylor, Gianna, Alex, Mark, and Sharon. Taylor Weinrich is the GM. Gianna is the face of Million Acre Farms. Alex is an A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) mechanic. Mark is an amazing butcher of seafood. Sharon is our super awesome check-out specialist (who we’ve used every single time). Renee and Sharon pictured.
Mark, our expert Filetér of Fish!

That now-defunct Winn-Dixie is now Detwiler’s Farm Market. The transformation from the then to the now is nothing less than magical. My nickname for this place is “The Garden of Eden”. We grabbed the most amazing cobbed-corn off their shelf and it was instantly replaced by the farmer who grew it. A sample of Gianna’s micro-greens tasted fresher than greens that were pulled straight from the planet, that minute. Mark held his filet knife in his hand like it was an extension of his persona as he filleted incredible fish that was hours from the catch. Alex was so friendly, and eager, to help Renee and I that it was hard to stop talking to him and listening to his story. Taylor, one of the men responsible for setting-up this magic of Detwiler’s produce and consumer union, was an (extra)ordinary guy. He was friendly, excited to be there, and, in my humble opinion, EXACTLY where he was meant to be. And Sharon. I’ve never been a check-out clerk. Knee-jerk reaction, I think it might get repetitive and tedious. Sharon didn’t make it feel that way. Every time Renee and I have visited this masterpiece of public offering, Sharon has been the human that was the last official face of Detwiler’s we saw. She has a beautiful smile with heart warming eyes. If you owned Detwiler’s this would be the person you would want to bid your customers, your friends, a heart-warming, adieu. This place is a magic shining star in our challenging world. A shining star that one would be best to not live without.

Detwiler’s. Must see, must do. Period. (BTW, that’s their homemade ice cream)
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Detwiler’s is a family owned chain. For more history click here: https://www.detwilermarket.com/

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