The Big Red Barn is back in business, new owner/operator

Chris Phillips, of Winter Haven, 33, recently opened the Big Red Barn produce market at 10070 Fern Hill Road, Riverview. He said he plans to make the market an all-day destination for area residents. LOIS KINDLE PHOTOS

By LOIS KINDLE

Residents looking for farm-fresh produce will find plenty of it and then some at the Big Red Barn in Riverview. Owned and operated by Chris Phillips, of Winter Haven, the newly opened market offers a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables, specialty items and friendly customer service.

Phillips, 33, has big plans for the place.

“We want this to be more than just a place for people to come for produce,” he said. “We have lots of ideas for making it a place they’ll come and make it a day.”

Those ideas include adding a seating area on the covered back porch; community events and vendor showcases; live bands; a fresh meat and seafood deli; wines; grab-and-go sandwiches, cut fruit; and down the road, hot foods.

For now, though, the entrepreneur is sticking primarily to fruits and veggies.

“If there’s one thing I know and am good at, it’s produce,” said Phillips, who began working with his uncle in the wholesale produce business when he was 12 and took over the company, Phillips Produce, at age 18. “I’d had my eye on this building for a long time and saw a lot of potential in the location. It seemed like (a farmers’ market) was something that needed to be around here.”

Phillips recently signed a long-term lease for the 6,000-square-foot, air-conditioned building and the two-acres it sits on. Fourteen days later, he hosted what he called a “community preview” for area residents to come check out the market and its long rows of produce, including fresh herb plants and occasional items like kumquats; Carolina Reaper, ghost and scorpion peppers; fingerling potatoes; pomegranates; Italian eggplants; Asian and prickly pears; red bananas; and others.

The Big Bend Barn, 10070 Fern Hill Road, Riverview, opened with a community preview July 1 and is expected to host a grand opening sometime in August.

Phillips buys locally, whenever possible, and offers an organic produce corner, which he said he’ll expand as he learns what customers want. He also offers specialty products like Amish wedding noodles, pickles, pasta sauce and relishes; made-from-scratch chocolates from the Pinellas Chocolate Co.; Troyer’s packaged meats, cheeses and butter; Old Florida salsa and dips; Revolution ice cream (by the cup or cone); Foundation Coffee; Kookie Krums baked goods; artisan breads; jams, jellies and honey; and more.

Shoppers are liking what they see.

“I’m so glad this is here,” said Teddi Bianchi, of Apollo Beach, as she perused some red, yellow and green bell peppers selling at three for $2. “This is my first time since learning about it from a friend. “It’s every bit as wonderful as she said. Prices are very good.”

Tiffiney Daniels, of Riverview, agreed.

“I’ve been here twice already,” she said, filling her shopping cart with assorted produce items. “I spent $21 here last week and would have spent at least $35 at Publix. I was so excited with my haul, I actually posted it on Facebook.”

These colorful bell peppers are currently listed at three for $2 at the Big Red Barn. Other produce items are similarly priced throughout the market.

Daniels said she’ll be stopping by the Big Red Barn every week before she heads to the grocery store.

“I like the fact that this supports small business,” she added. “It’s a couple of miles out of the way, but everything is so fresh. It’s well worth the trip.”

Riverview’s Big Red Barn, 10070 Fern Hill Road, is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Its grand opening will be sometime in August.

For information on the event or the market itself, visit www.facebook.com/thebigredbarnflorida.com. You can also email market@bigredbarnflorida.com or call 813-672-8888.

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