Owner and founder of Green Turtle in Indian Harbour Beach retires after 22 years

Owners brother, nephew take over operations

Tim Dwight has retired as owner of Green Turtle Market in Indian Harbour Beach (Suzy Fleming Leonard/FLORIDA TODAY)

INDIAN HARBOUR BEACH, Fla. – Green Turtle Market was just an idea in 1999 when Tim Dwight bought a piece of property on Eau Gallie Boulevard near State Road A1A.

An empty real estate office was razed to make room for what he envisioned as a market and deli similar to Carmine’s Gourmet Market in Palm Beach Gardens, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

He and executive chef and partner Ercan Ekinci weren’t sure how the market, with its Key West-style architecture, meat counter, wine department and gourmet-prepared foods, would go over in Indian Harbour Beach. But they were cautiously optimistic when they opened in August 2000.

“We picked the day school started, thinking we would sneak in and open quietly,” Dwight said.

Brevard County had other ideas. The store was packed all day, and the shelves had almost emptied by day two. The little beach town was hungry for what Green Turtle had to offer.

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Now, after 22 years, two expansions, a recession and a pandemic, Dwight has decided to retire. His brother Jamie and nephew Paul took over the market at the first of the year.

“It’s been a great ride for me,” Dwight said. “Ercan leaving (in 2019) planted a seed in the back of my head. I turned 65.”

The timing seemed right.

As Dwight steps back from a place he’s dedicated himself to for two decades, he is proud of the way the business grew and thrived.

In 2005, the Grapevine Cafe was added to the east end of the building. A few years ago, the building was expanded again to make room for fresh vegetables and more grocery items.

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The catering program became popular with wedding planners and largescale events.

While Ekinci handled the food side of the market and the cafe, Dwight gravitated to the wine department. Over the years, he trained to become a Certified Wine Educator and Sommelier. He wrote a wine column for FLORIDA TODAY for 10 years and has continued to contribute a list of Top 10 Wines for less than $40 every December.

“A lot of people want to learn about wine,” he said. “They kept asking questions. It kept me wanting to come to work.”

Even as chain retailers such as Total Wine, World Market and ABC & Spirits expanded in the county, Green Turtle maintained its niche wine business with wine dinners, tastings and a wine club.

Before the pandemic, wine dinners with elaborate menus and winemakers as guest speakers sold out quickly.

For wine tastings, “we would have 150 people after the store closed and bring in some of our vendors,” he said.

Dwight feels he’s leaving the wine department in good hands. Dominique Haas, who began working at Green Turtle in 2007, has taken over as wine manager and continues to plan tastings and events.

He’s also happy the market will remain in the family.

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What’s changing at the Green Turtle? Nothing major — yet

Jamie Dwight had been running Florida Air Academy, a military boarding school started by their father Jonathan Dwight in 1961, since the mid-1990s. The school, now Florida Preparatory Academy, was sold to California-based investment company Newopen USA in 2017.

He began working at the Green Turtle in 2019.

After navigating the closures and restrictions of COVID 19, Tim was considering selling the market. He and Jamie were talking in the parking lot one evening after locking up.

“And my brother said he would like to give it a shot,” Tim said.

Paul worked at the market as a teenager and loved it, Tim said.

“Paul is here now and has brought a lot of energy,” Tim said. “He’s dragging us into the 21st century, especially with technology.”

Tim planned to work a few months into 2022, but Jamie suggested making the switch with the calendar year. Tim’s last day was Jan. 2.

Jamie said there are no imminent plans to make major changes to the market.

“In the short term, we will continue to do the things that earned us the reputation that we have now,” Jamie said.

Tim is confident about the market’s future.

“I feel good that the Green Turtle is not going to become a medical building or a vape shop,” he said.

It’s strange to wake up in the morning and not have to rush to work, Tim said. He plans to play more tennis and travel. He has a place in Asheville, North Carolina, where he hopes to spend more time.

But he’ll hang onto one aspect of his old job.

“I will continue with my passion for wine,” he said, “and will probably show up for some of the wine dinners.”

He’ll use some of his newfound freedom reading, studying and tasting wine.