College Point Boulevard is known for speeding trucks, traffic jams and long stretches of barren road, but for many fruit lovers, it is also the best place to buy watermelons.
Pettigrew & Co., a family-run Brooklyn outfit, has sold the summery fruit by the intersection of College Point Boulevard and Booth Memorial Avenue for years.
Ceion Vizzel, 29, is following in the footsteps of his father and uncle, and every day he parks a box truck on the side of the road next to the Queens Botanical Garden fence for 12 hours to hock the elliptical fruit to passing drivers. Vizzel’s father worked at the same location for years before dying and leaving it to his son.
Flushing resident Peter Tzeremes stopped his work truck last Thursday afternoon to pick a melon for his family to eat. He inquired about prices and balked when he heard they were going for $12 for 35-pound-and-higher fruit and $10 for smaller ones.
But as a regular customer, he knows the quality Pettigrew provides and that gas prices and the time of year are to blame for the high cost.
“They’re good today?” Tzeremes asked.
“Guaranteed sweet,” Vizzel told him. “You know me, I got it for you.”
Tzeremes believed his trusted vendor, so he handed over cash for a $12 melon and went on his way.
The watermelon business is an interesting one because costs do not follow demand as closely as in many other industries.
Vizzel’s cousin makes a run in a tractor trailer to points south to pick up thousands of watermelons each week, which Vizzel and the other sellers load into their trucks at loading sites in Brooklyn, Flushing and College Point.
During April, when Pettigrew’s salesmen first set up their trucks each year, the cost is highest because they have to be bought in Florida. But as the season progresses, the price falls precipitously as melons become available at farms higher up the Eastern seaboard and the amount of gas needed to pick them up drops.
In June and early July, they are available in Georgia; in late July and early August, they come from North Carolina; and in much of August they can be purchased in Delaware, meaning the prices are lowest in the dead of summer.
“Prices depend on the market. We spend less money, so we pass that on to our customers in lower prices,” Vizzel said while taking a break from the warm noontime sun. “The hotter it is, the better business is.”
He said the season picks up as the weather gets warmer and business is good enough that he hopes it will soon lead him to accomplish his dream of being a small business owner.
“I’m saving to get a little vegetable store so I can get off the street,” he said. “It’s pretty decent pay, entrepreneurship, working for myself.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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