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Citrus shop coming to Ocean Drive

STORY BY MICHELLE GENZ, (Week of August 22, 2013)
Photo: Cheryl Roseland, dad Sid Banack and brother Rusty Banack, who manages groves.

Peaches, oranges and ice cream at the beach: a pioneer Vero citrus family is putting that summery, nostalgic concept into bricks and mortar, opening a glorified fruit stand on Ocean Drive this fall in a storefront just the north of Costa d’Este Resort.

The Banack family, the owners of Countryside Citrus who’ve been in Vero Beach for five generations, are a fixture at the beachside Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. There, the family patriarch, Sid Banack, whom his daughter accurately describes as “very handsome but humble,” passes out juicy fruit slices to passersby, with a Hollywood smile and the homey sales pitch: “We grow it ourselves!”

And they do: son Rusty Banack oversees a collection of family-owned groves around the county that the Banacks have managed to keep in production, resisting the temptation to sell off to developers.

At the new shop, customers will be able to place orders for oranges, tangerines and grapefruit to be shipped home or as gifts.

There will also be fresh-squeezed juice and fruit to eat on the spot, including peaches in season and pecans from the family farm in Fort Valley, halfway between Macon and Perry, in the heart of Georgia’s peach country.

Both the peaches and the fresh orange juice are going to flavor the soft-serve; they’ve figured out a way to make a sort of sorbet with the juice, and they will offer a peach soft-serve with puréed fresh peaches from the family farm, bagged and frozen during Georgia’s peach season, May through August.

In addition, the shop will sell “the typical candies you see in roadside fruit stands,” says Cheryl Roseland, Sid’s daughter.

Just thinking about it brought to mind Stuckey’s pecan logs and her own Florida road trips, beach chairs tied to top of the family’s Country Squire station wagon. “I remember the chairs falling off and flapping in the wind.”

It was Roseland’s great-great grandmother on her late mother’s side who moved to Vero in the early 1900s, and lived in a green-and-white house on SR 60 at 37th Street, long since torn down.

As for Sid Banack, who turns 81 on Tuesday, his grandparents planted citrus in Orange County in the 1800s, Roseland says.

Sid was born in Central America, where his family was living while his father built railroads for a banana company. 

Sid Banack got into the citrus business in earnest after a long career in insurance, joined by his daughter Cheryl, who moved back to Vero from Texas in the 1980s; she worked with her dad’s agency for 20 years.

For as long as she can remember, Sid had always intended to work outside with plants – he majored in agronomy at the University of Florida before going into the service. He and his wife, Donna Sue, were stationed in Germany when Cheryl was born, and came back to Vero that year – 1956.

Sid did start a small nursery, but he knew he had to support a family, Sheryl says. So he went to work with Farm Bureau insurance. It was there that the late Barney Greene, a powerhouse in local citrus who died in May, became his mentor in both insurance and citrus.

Meanwhile, another side of the family, the Van Antwerps, had opened a fruit stand and packing house, which Sid Banack eventually bought.

Sid Banack sold his insurance business in 2004 when his hobby, growing citrus, became his full-time preoccupation.

Roseland’s husband, Nick, an architect, is designing the renovation of the as-yet unnamed beach shop.

For years, the space was a women’s boutique, most recently Blondies on Ocean, a resort wear shop owned by Trish Hickey-Reid.

The citrus shop is scheduled to open sometime prior to October, just as the first citrus fruit is ripening for harvest, and coinciding with the opening of the family fruit stand on 58th Avenue, north of the fairgrounds.