Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

As produce vendor recovered from heart attack, his landlord built him a new stand

Left, Leonard Whaley inside his new produce stand, built by landowner Richard Yarnell, above, as Whaley recovered from a heart attack.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Left, Leonard Whaley inside his new produce stand, built by landowner Richard Yarnell, above, as Whaley recovered from a heart attack.

TAMPA — Under a sweltering June sun, 68-year-old Leonard Whaley felt a familiar twinge.

Whaley, born of a family that has peddled produce in South Tampa for nearly a century, has had four angioplasties to open clogged arteries. He knows when he's having a heart attack.

So Whaley left his produce stand and went to the hospital.

When he returned after a month of bed rest, his flimsy old produce tent was gone.

Was this the end?

• • •

Leonard Whaley jokes that members of his family don't retire from the produce business.

They die.

"Why would I retire? All my friends are Whaley's customers," he says.

The Whaley family has been feeding Tampa folks since the 1920s, when Leonard Whaley's granddad opened up shop on Florida Avenue.

About 10 years later, the family moved to a S Howard Avenue spot and stayed there for more than 70 years. A lease dispute in 2008 sent the crew packing.

Leonard Whaley talks about the shuttering like the death of a close friend. In a rusty cash box, he keeps old newspaper clippings about the store.

• • •

Earlier this year, Whaley approached Richard Yarnell, owner of a Sunoco gas station at S Boulevard and Platt Street, about renting a corner of his parking lot to sell fruits and vegetables.

Yarnell was honored.

Before the Howard Avenue store closed, Yarnell shopped there himself.

"He's a 'Who's-Who' in Tampa," Yarnell said of Whaley. "He's a part of the family, you know?"

So, each day before dawn, Whaley would trek out to a local farmers' market in east Tampa to stock up. By 10 a.m., he had everything ready under a thin, white tent.

Business was good.

As the summer heat set in, Whaley started going home for a couple of hours at midday to cool off. He could feel the tightness in his chest getting worse. He could only ignore it so long. The hospital beckoned.

After surgery, when Whaley was well enough to run errands, he took a trip to the gas station to visit Yarnell.

But why was the tent gone?

"Don't worry about it," Yarnell said.

Whaley went home, watched TV and tried not to get too bored.

Yarnell pulled out his tape measure.

• • •

On July 1, finally ready for work, Whaley pulled into the Sunoco parking lot.

He smiled.

Standing before him was a new 15-by-15-foot wooden produce stand. It has a sheet metal roof, wood lattice walls and colored triangle flags hanging inside. In the corner is a 30-inch industrial fan to blow cool air right at Whaley.

"To think he would actually go out of his way to do this," Whaley said.

Yarnell hopes the new digs will stave off more health troubles for Whaley.

"I love having him around," Yarnell said. "He's a good man."

On a recent August morning, in the breeze of his new fan, Whaley fiddled with his stock of avocados.

A customer walked up, wiping sweat from her forehead, and shopped in the shade.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2442.

About this series

Every day, people are making a difference in the Tampa Bay area: getting groceries for a sick neighbor; giving a bonus or day off to workers at a small business; visiting an elderly person who lives alone. The opportunities for goodwill are seemingly boundless. We would like to share with readers the many ways that people, randomly, selflessly, take the time and effort to help others. Do you have a story about someone who goes beyond the call of duty? E-mail your tale to kindness@sptimes.com; make sure to include your name and phone number.

About this series

Every day, people are making a difference in the Tampa Bay area: getting groceries for a sick neighbor; giving a bonus or day off to workers at a small business; visiting an elderly person who lives alone. The opportunities for goodwill are seemingly boundless. We would like to share with readers the many ways that people, randomly, selflessly, take the time and effort to help others. Do you have a story about someone who goes beyond the call of duty? E-mail your tale to kindness@sptimes.com; make sure to include your name and phone number.

As produce vendor recovered from heart attack, his landlord built him a new stand 08/06/10 [Last modified: Saturday, August 7, 2010 1:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  2. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber

    World

    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  3. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  4. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  5. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)