TAMPA — Ron Whaley, the third-generation grocer who ran the well-known Whaley's Market in South Tampa for more than 30 years, died Monday from diabetes-related complications. He was 71.
At one time, there were six Whaley's Markets in Tampa.
In 1934, Mr. Whaley's uncle began what became the best-known location on Howard Avenue as an open-air business.
It was enclosed in the 1950s.
Ron Whaley owned the location from 1974 until 2007, when his children took it over.
The Howard Avenue business closed the next year.
Mr. Whaley grew up working in the stores with his father and great-grandfather before buying the Howard Avenue store from his uncle, said son Todd Whaley.
At one point, he said, Mr. Whaley also owned several other locations.
Tampa residents knew they could get specialty fruits and other items at Whaley's they couldn't get at bigger grocery stores. In the '70s, Whaley's expanded to include a meat market.
Todd Whaley said his father inherited his grandfather's good business sense and friendliness.
"Everybody in the public just loved them so much," he said. "They were accessible and it was sincere. They really cared about the people of Tampa."
Mr. Whaley was a Tampa native, playing football and basketball at Hillsborough High School.
He was married to his high school sweetheart, Jeanie. They had three children, all of whom worked at the markets.
He is survived by his wife, Jeanie; his three children, Todd Whaley, Linda Whaley Bublitz and Laurie Whaley Pearson; brother Roy Whaley; four grandsons and a step-granddaughter.
Visitation is 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at Blount & Curry Funeral Home, 605 S MacDill Ave., followed by a graveside service at Hopewell Cemetery, 102 S Church St.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374.