Steve Albright and wife Khristi seem keen on making a good first impression with their roadside produce stand, which has been around just 6 weeks. They do things like load watermelons in car trunks for customers and talk about cherishing “friendships over profit.”
“If something is not good, we want to make it right,” Steve said. “That’s my motto, man.”
It’s a motto that is already being embraced by customers like local resident Veronica Endara, who swung by New Tampa Farm for some fruit one evening this week.
“First, I come here for the quality,” she said while forking over some cash. “Sometimes in Publix, the quality is not the same, and also because I want to encourage small business.”
New Tampa Farm is the archetype of a small business with its small-scale sales and affable husband-wife team at the helm. Here at 17161 Morris Bridge Road, stock changes on a daily basis. At any given time there are beefsteak tomatoes, roma tomatoes, grape tomatoes, cubanel peppers, peas, large watermelons, pineapples, peas, bananas, okra, pink lady apples, squash and pears. Orchids and boiled peanuts are thrown into the mix, too.
The Albrights grow some produce on their 11-acre property that they purchased in 1996. Yet a good portion of their stand’s stock – the vegetables in particular -- comes from area growers.
“I can’t grow cheaper than I buy,” Steve said. “I’m in bed with a grower.”
That’s what helps the Albrights stay competitive, they said. That and the fact that their overhead is low. They own the property and Steve built the barn.
The pair much different day jobs. Steve works for Roche Diagnostics as a service engineer while Khristi does MRIs for University Diagnostic Institute. The couple says New Tampa Farm provides them with a reprieve from the “dog-eat-dog corporate world.”
For now, the business is small. They are open 5-8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. But they hope the selection will expand along with the hours, perhaps one day morphing into a full-time gig.
“That’s the plan,” said Steve, who likes to keep his product moving. “I’m like Sam Walton. I like to sell more for less.”
Being connected to the land is something that was always with Steve. Growing up in Winter Haven, Steve worked in the orange groves during the summer. “As a young kid, I always wanted to own a farm,” he said. "It's a rewarding little business."
While Khristi said "we are off the beaten path," it has already drawn its share of loyal customers.
“We have one lady who comes from Tampa Palms just for tomatoes,” Steve said. “That’s like 15 miles.”