WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – An old citrus packing plant now serves as the home for a local family-owned business, Florida Paints.
The facility in Winter Garden was built in the early 1920s and packed some of Florida's finest fruit. It was one of the second-largest fresh fruit-packing houses in the country, according to Don Strube, co-CEO of Florida Paints.
"For those of us that have been here our whole lives, we have fond memories of the days back when, you know, the orange blossoms, you know, the smell in the air and groves as far as the eye could see," Strube said. "In the 80s, we had the freezes that hit us."
The freezes were a blow to the citrus industry in Central Florida, said Strube, causing many fresh fruit-packing businesses to start moving farther south.
After the freeze, the plant remained empty for several decades. In 2018 Florida Paints moved in after 2 years of renovations.
Strube said it was like going into a treasure hunt when the company found the building.
"It looked like stuff that you saw on NASA in the 1960's. There were tons of old switches. When we were working outside, we found a street that nobody knew existed -- gin bottles, whiskey bottles," Strube said.
Florida Paints focuses on paint that is sustainable during the intense Florida weather.
"We make architectural paints. All we make here is waterborn paints, which means that the solvent used in them is water. Oil-based paints, they use petroleum distillates. Those are flammable," Strube said.
You could say that paint pretty much runs through the Strube family's veins. In 1960, his father and uncle created the paint company known as Color Wheel. In 2006, the family sold the company. Strube and his brother continued their father's legacy and, in 2012 they started Florida Paints. At the old citrus packing plant where they hand make base paint.
The Strube family says it's important to help the environment.
"It's my state. I want to protect it. We recycle all of the wash water when we're cleaning out the equipment," Strube said "We don't throw anything away. It either gets reused here or cardboard all gets recycled. Plastic is recycled."
And Strube said giving back to the community is just as important as maintaining the business.
"We're working with mural artists. We work with schools, churches, institutions. We're working on putting together a program for kind of a beautification process. You know, this is our community. We're vested here. The money that's earned here goes back into the community," he said.