Only have a minute? Listen instead
BY PIPER GIFFORD | SPECIAL TO MyRGV.COM
RAYMONDVILLE — In the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, nestled in between the bustling city and the sprawling countryside, lies a hidden gem that has been serving up local fruit to the community for over three decades.
Located off Expressway 77 in Raymondville, this place is known as Juan’s Fruit Stand. With its bright colors and mouth-watering aromas, the stand has become a beloved landmark for locals and visitors alike. Behind the sweet fruit lies a story of perseverance, hard work and a deep love for family.
A 31-year family legacy, Juan’s Fruit Stand is home to a father-son duo, Juan Ramirez Sr., 63, and Juan Ramirez Jr., 39. Juan Sr. has been running the stand since 1992, but the roots of the business go back much further.
Born and raised in Reynosa, Mexico, Juan Sr. and his family migrated to the United States in 1970 in search of a better life. His father brought him to the United States when Juan was just 11 years old. After graduating high school, Juan Sr. worked as a migrant worker before he decided to start his own business.
“We used to go to New Mexico, Colorado, and Ohio,” Juan Sr. said. “Work in the fields, picking onions and pickles, tomatoes. Yeah, it was hard but we made our way.”
Juan Sr. met his wife, Janie Ramirez, when they worked together in New Mexico. After they got married in 1981, they moved to his wife’s hometown, Raymondville.
Juan started his career working at another fruit stand in the Valley.
“I worked for five years learning what to buy, how much to buy and all that,” he said. “And I liked it. So I decided to open up my own place.”
His passion for quality produce is evident in every aspect of the business, from the fresh and juicy oranges, bursting with citrusy goodness, to the crisp and refreshing limes that taste like they were just picked from the garden.
But it’s the ruby red grapefruit that takes center stage at Juan’s Fruit Stand. With its vibrant hue and mouth-watering aroma, it’s hard not to be tempted by this delicious fruit.
Most of the fruit is grown at local farms in the Valley. The ruby red grapefruit has a sour-jerking taste, but a sweet and juicy flavor.
“My father, since he started the business he says ‘the fruit sells itself,’” said Juan Jr. “So he likes to let people taste what the fruit tastes like. That way they know what they’re buying … If they try it, they buy it.”
As you walk through the fruit stand, the fragrant aromas of ripe and juicy fruit fill the air, making your mouth water with anticipation. It’s like a symphony of summer, with each fruit adding its own note to the harmony.
But there’s more than fruit sold at the stand.
The business also sells locally grown vegetables, imported Mexican pottery, patio decorations, organic nuts and grains, syrups and Dallas Cowboys decor.
Juan Jr. said the Cowboys are a big part of their Sunday traditions. Their customers are too.
“We’re big Cowboys fans. So whenever the cowboys play Sundays, there’s for sure a barbecue going on here. The customers stop and smell the food here and it smells good,” he said.
Over the years, Juan Sr.’s business has flourished, becoming a vital source of support for his family and the community.
But like any business, Juan’s Fruit Stand encountered some challenges along the way.
Around 10 years ago, the city of Raymondville expanded Expressway 77. With the addition of a frontage road and overpass, convenience for drivers had negative impacts on local businesses.
“The first year was kind of rough,” Juan Sr. said. “You know, it did affect a lot of our business. The sales were down and I mean, we made it and I prepared my customers, when it was under construction, that that was going to happen. And they just told me ‘you know Juan, just put up a sign where the exit’s gonna be. You put up a sign and we’ll come to you.’”
About a mile before the exit, the sign still stands: “Juan’s Fruit Stand Exit Now.”
Two years ago, Juan Sr. passed the torch onto his son, hoping that the legacy of his hard work and dedication will continue for generations to come.
“When I passed on the business to him, I made a letter to God, you know, to give him the blessing. And so I’m proud to pass it on to my son,” said Juan Sr.
Juan Jr. said he is proud of his father and the family business. Even though Juan Sr. is retired, he still joins his son at the stand from time to time.
“It has supported the two sisters and one other brother that I have,” Juan Jr. said. “It has supported our whole family for 31, 32 years now. So I hope it continues to do that for me and my family and I hope to continue the legacy with one of my kids and they take it over and keep growing this place.”
For more information, checkout Juan’s Fruit Stand on Facebook.