What is in this article?:
• The inspiration for the juice company Marygrace Sexton founded came in 1989.
• She credits her husband, Robert Sexton, a fourth generation Florida citrus grower who, with his family, runs a packing house at Vero Beach, for planting the thought in her head.
• The idea was to have a premium value-added orange juice, all Florida, all the time. Florida oranges are the best juicing oranges in the world.
JOHN MARTINELLI, left, Orchid Island Juice Company’s executive vice-president, was his sister Marygrace Sexton’s only fulltime employee when she started the business.
Marygrace Sexton’s story is one of those classic feel-good American success tales.
The inspiration for the juice company she founded came in 1989. She credits her husband, Robert Sexton, a fourth generation Florida citrus grower who, with his family, runs a packing house at Vero Beach, for planting the thought in her head.
She then worked as business manager for a group of radiologists, and didn’t need another job. As a mother of a young child, she had plenty to occupy her time away from work. If she felt the need to switch to another career, she could always go back to being a dental assistant, her original profession.
“I met Bobby when I worked on his teeth,” she says.
Robert, a descendant of legendary citrus industry pioneer and Vero Beach-area developer, Waldo Sexton, thought there might be a market niche for a premium fresh-squeezed orange juice. He had no time to devote to such a venture, so Marygrace started looking at the possibilities.
“He kept saying, start it, start it, somebody needs to work on this. I had a fulltime job and a busy life but I began thinking about it. Bobby said to go in business; six people who knew the business said, don’t,” she says.
“The idea was to have a premium value-added orange juice, all Florida, all the time. Florida oranges are the best juicing oranges in the world.”
A month or so later, Orchid Island Juice Company was born. She got a juice extractor from an out-of-business fruit stand and started making orange juice. She called it Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice, named for her infant daughter. After putting together enough for samples, she took some to the fruit market in Miami to see if she could drum up some business.
“I went to the Miami market at 2 a.m. This was before cell phones. It was in a bad area of town, a dangerous situation. I was wearing a dress and high heels. I had no clue what it was all about,” she says.
She made an interesting discovery, though — people liked her orange juice.
“We got our first customer and he wanted us to have a huge order out in six days. At the time, I didn’t even have a business permit yet. It was going to take six weeks to get it. Somehow, it all worked out and we got the company going,” she says.
That first order also came at Thanksgiving, not the most convenient time for a young wife and mother. Undeterred, she borrowed a refrigerator truck and personally made the delivery.