Dear Call Box: There used to be a fruit bar called Hawthorne’s that was on Forsyth Street for many years. They were known for their fresh juices.

 

D.W., Jacksonville

Dear D.W.: Hawthorne’s Fresh Fruit Juices squeezed out a living downtown for 71 years. The Jacksonville institution was at Laura and Adams streets, its fifth location, when it closed in June 1995. The landlord had decided to tear down the property and turn it into a parking lot, according to Florida Times-Union archives.

Wherever the location, it was the place to go for juices from Florida oranges and grapefruit, Honduran pineapples to Caribbean coconuts squeezed fresh daily by a sausage machine modified into a pulverizer. It also sold a pina colada mixture and a variety of packaged snack food.

Hawthorne’s rang up its sales on a 1910 brass National Cash Register that was powered by a lever. A ceiling fan cooled the small shop with its checkerboard tile floor, tropical aura and aging yellow and orange posters touting “fresh juice.” It never had a telephone.

Everyone from derelicts to financier Ed Ball quenched their thirst at Hawthorne’s. Through the years, customers included former Mayor Hans Tanzler, Dick Stratton of TV fame, U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett, Ed Lane of Atlantic National Bancorporation and boxers Sugar Ray Robinson and Max Baer, the Times-Union reported.

Fred Hawthorne founded the juice bar in 1924 on Main Street. His brother, Jim Hawthorne Sr., joined the firm with a branch unit in 1939, a Times-Union story said. Jim Hawthorne Jr. started working at the business when he was 6, lugging fresh-pressed juice in milk pails from the Main Street unit to Forsyth. He remained with the shop throughout his working career, becoming known as “The Juice Man.”

Hawthorne said he came in at 4:30 a.m. six days a week to squeeze the juice, opened at 6:30 a.m. and closed at 6 p.m. For years he never took a vacation.

At the time, the business was at 121 N. Laura St. surrounded by big banks and retailers. It was at the second-busiest bus stop in Jacksonville.

Hawthorne opened early because workers changed buses early, and a lot never ate breakfast, he told the Times-Union. Then came the summertime flood of children downtown and thirsty passersby.

“I work in the heat too. I don’t have air conditioning … when people come in, I want ’em sweating — that’s when you get those refills,” he said.

In one story, a customer gave an unsolicited testimonial that he had come to Hawthorne’s for 36 years because fresh juice made him feel better and got him ready for the day. Then he gave a little tap dance to prove his fitness.

“He doesn’t water it down, like a lot of places do,” he said.

In 1973 an 8-ounce glass of juice cost 20 cents, Hawthorne said in the interview, noting that nearby restaurants typically charged 25 cents for a 6-ounce cup of juice made from frozen concentrate.

A couple of decades later, customers fondly remembered his products. In a “gone but not forgotten” internet thread, a man said he moved to New York 30 years ago but recalled that “You could get the best pineapple juice and coconut milk there.”

A long-time resident said it was the best juice shop “barring none.” Another said the coconut milk was “really the best thing you’ve put in your mouth, and my mother and I used to drive down once a week to have a glass of it.”

After Hawthorne’s closed, his nephew and his wife, Larry and Mary Mullis, opened Ambrosia With a Twist, a fruit juice bar and bakery at 140 W. Monroe St., in December 1996. Mullis worked with Hawthorne from 1969-84. We don’t know how long Ambrosia lasted before closing. We were unable to contact the couple.

Like Hawthorne’s, Ambrosia With a Twist sold juices, as well as baked goods.

“People will always remember James as being ‘The Juice Man,’ always,” Larry Mullis said in a Times-Union story.

Hawthorne died in January 2006.

If you have a question about Jacksonville’s history, call (904) 359-4622 or mail to Call Box, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL 32231. Please include contact information. Photos are also welcome.

Sandy Strickland: (904) 359-4128