Florida on a Tankful: Maxwell Groves offers an old Florida front porch

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, January 12, 2017, 11:22 PM EST

Not too far off the beaten path in Highlands County, awaits a roadside stop dating back to the Great Depression.

"They all think they are in the country, and they are two blocks from town,” said Steve Maxwell with a chuckle.

Past the mailbox, and along the front porch, awaits an opening to an era gone by.

"They love the rocking chairs, the slow pace,” said Maxwell.

The owner of Maxwell Groves is seated in one of his trademark orange rocking chairs, wearing sandals and content to solve the world’s problems all from Avon Park, Florida under a strong oak tree.

"This particular spot we're sitting in right now is our home place,” Steve said of the view. “The house to my left over here is the home I was born and raised in."

Steve Maxwell grew up in these orange groves, served the United States Air Force in Bangkok, came home and then was content to never leave.

"I started working on the packing house and it was only a dirt floor and equipment shed,” he said of the store attached to the front porch. The packing house façade is reminiscent of a Cracker Barrel, but feels more authentic.

Today, there is more than a packing house hiding behind the porch. Fresh from Florida products, private label salad dressings and candy are all at arm’s reach.

The Maxwell Groves store is decorated with pictures of Steve's parents and his daughters, while being known as the place to find fresh orange juice.

Call ahead and visit as citrus rolls in from the packing house near the freshly squeezed orange juice. The free samples keeps folks coming back.

"I have free orange juice in the dispenser, they can drink all that they want,” explained Steve, sharing European tourists have found his orange grove on the internet and now make pilgrimages to the front porch.

And no visit to Maxwell's is complete until a lick of the orange ice cream, made with orange juice.

However, the main attraction is outside rocking gently, offering wisdom.

"The Lord has a way of cutting your legs out from under you and settling you down,” Steve shared on an overcast winter day.

The attraction preserved since 1935 may not be for much longer.

"I really don't have a life outside of this place. And I do have the place up for sale if anybody wants to buy it,” Steve admits, swallowing his pride.

He admits his dream of having a daughter in St. Petersburg take over the business, but knows in his heart that is not an option.

Yet, until a sale, this piece of old Florida still hangs on, just like the oranges on the trees out back.

"This is it.  This is where I put my whole life,” Steve said.

Tankful on Television
You can catch new Florida on a Tankful stories with award-winning travel reporter Scott Fais each Thursday through Sunday on News 13 and Bay News 9. New editions play at the end of each hour starting at 6 a.m.