Heller Bros. Packinghouse Closes

Josh McGillPacking

Heller Bros. Packing Corp.’s packinghouse in Winter Garden, Florida, has ceased operations. The 50,000-square-foot facility had operated since 1939.

Heller Bros.
Photo courtesy of the Florida Department of Citrus

“It’s a big loss for the citrus industry. It’s a big loss for Winter Garden,” said Jim Garceau. His company, Orlando Citrus, bought fresh grapefruit, oranges and tangerines from Heller Bros. from 1992 to 2020. He sold the fruit to farmers’ markets around Orlando until closing his business when COVID-19 hit the United States.

“It was a quality organization, quality people and quality fruit — top to bottom,” Garceau said. “I’m just a small wholesaler, but they greeted me with open arms, respect and friendship.” Garceau said some Heller Bros. employees worked at the packinghouse for 50 years. 

The packinghouse had more than 130 full-time and seasonal workers. The company shipped more than 1.5 million cartons commercially each year. Another 300,000 boxes were shipped to juice plants. In addition to the United States, the packinghouse shipped fruit to Canada, Puerto Rico, Japan and parts of Europe. Its fruit varieties included Fallglo tangerines, Hamlin oranges, Honey tangerines, Honeybells, navel oranges, red grapefruit, Sunburst tangerines, tangelos and Valencia oranges.

The packinghouse office building on Ninth Street will continue to function as the family office, the West Orange Times & Observer reported.

Heller Bros. has more than 4,000 acres of citrus groves in Florida. “We have owned and operated our Polk County and Collier County groves for over 25 years,” the company’s website states. “In the past 12 years, we added two more groves in St. Lucie County.”

Brothers Isidore and Murray Heller, wholesale produce merchants, founded Heller Bros. Co. at the Washington Market in New York City in 1911. In 1934, Murray moved to Orlando to acquire citrus fruit for distribution. The growth of the citrus operation led to the formation of Heller Bros. Packing Corp. in 1939.

About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large

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