Simplicity and Quality Help a Small Clearwater Store Last

A 3-foot sculpture of a rooster greets customers from its perch on the corner of the roof. Inside, more roosters rest on a shelf cluttered with old photos and licenses. This is where Milto Tagaras,  son to the original owners of John’s Produce, works as a partial owner.

John’s Produce has been a fixture in Pinellas County for over 37 years, according to the Pinellas County Property Appraiser website.  The store is currently stationed on the corner of Belcher and Nursery Roads in Clearwater. Tagaras credits their current location to a man, Mr. Logan, who sold the space to his parents at a young age. Tagaras said Mr. Logan had recognized John and Eva Tagaras as hard-working immigrants from Greece and agreed to sell them the location.

“We started out on Walsingham. Then we moved to where that bank is now,” said Tagaras pointing across the street. “Then over where Café Charlie is. We own that building. Then where the Shell station is now. Then to here. There’s heavy traffic. It’s a great area.”

Milto Tagaras holds a picture of his parents, John and Eva Tagaras, in front of their third location. The background shows the unfinished building that now houses Café Charlie.

Tagaras credits the success of the business to the relationship his father has made with farmers markets over the past three decades. He also added they have a simple philosophy when it comes to stocking  their produce.

“It’s a triple win. We buy premium product. It looks good, people will pay a fair price for it, and we never have to throw anything away, “ he said.

Customer Richard Brunelle agrees. Carrying his basket while talking to Tagaras about their different locations, Brunelle discussed how he has been coming to John’s Produce since the store moved to its third location over 15 years ago.

“I come here for the tomatoes. They are the best and the cheapest,“ said Brunelle.

When asked about the dry goods section of the store, Tagaras offers a more complicated explanation.  According to Tagaras, the request for specific imported items came after the beginning of the Kosovo War brought an influx of immigrants to the United States.

rambutans

German and Croatian products on the shelves of John’s Produce. Rambutans on sale with the price handwritten on cardboard.

“At first, people would cosign the products they wanted from their home countries.” said Tagaras. As certain products became more popular, they would remain on the shelves.  Now products with German, Polish, Bosnian and Greek origin can be found throughout the store.

“People would be willing to pay $10 for the water they wanted. They wouldn’t drink Zephyrhills water, so they came here,” said Tagaras.

front entrance

The front entrance of John’s Produce.

The customers continue to return, including the owners from La Bella Eva Restaurant and King’s Food Mart, who come to buy fresh produce. Tagaras feels the business’ success comes from a simple place.

“The name Tagaras comes from ταγάρια. It’s the bags put on donkeys to take food to markets. It’s like how the name Miller comes from people who milled and Smiths worked with metal. We come from a line of people who do this.”