Crave a scoop of orange ice cream?

Orange Blossom Groves is reopening under a new name but with the same favorites.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published September 14, 2007

SEMINOLE - Folks who yearn for the Florida of old when they could nip down to the nearest tourist stop and sip free orange juice and shop for souvenirs soon may have a chance to indulge those longings.

Orange Blossom Groves is reopening under a new name but with the same much-loved products. That includes the orange ice cream.

"It's our plan to reopen the store at the end of October for the products that were traditionally sold there," said Harold Sample, vice president of planning and development for Citrus County Groves and JDR properties.

He said the shop will provide free samples of juice and wine, and both beverages will be offered for sale.

Citrus County Groves is planning to lease the former Orange Blossom Groves store on Seminole Boulevard.

The company has operated the former Orange Blossom Groves store on U.S. 19 at Belleair Road since October 2005.

Allowing for changing times, there will be a few differences.

"We will not be reopening the packing house," Sample said. "There is not that much fruit in Pinellas County."

The lack of fruit was one of the reasons owner Al Repetto closed both stores in September 2005.

Repetto and his brother-in-law began the business in 1946 after getting out of the armed services.

In those days, Pinellas County was covered with orange groves, and the business took off, catering to tourists who came in the winter and filled their cars with the fruit. He added a retail store and a mail-order business.

At one time, Repetto said in 2005, the business was bringing in between $12-million and $13-million a year. But as time passed, developers bought groves across the county. By the time Repetto closed, he had only about 38 acres of groves in Pinellas and 250 acres in Hillsborough.

The Hillsborough groves fell victim to citrus canker and 27,500 trees had to be burned.

Repetto said then that it didn't make much sense to continue the business. About a month after he closed, Citrus County Groves, based in Pasco, took over the U.S. 19 location and reopened the retail store. It gave away free orange juice and sold the beloved orange ice cream, as well as other items.

At the time, Repetto still intended to sell the Seminole location. But it has not sold. Now Citrus County Groves is planning to take over the Seminole location.

"This is just another step in the partnership," Sample said. "We're picking up where Orange Blossom Groves" left off.

With luck, he said, the store will reopen about Oct. 22.