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Friday, Oct 20, 2017
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Tampa man makes his own way selling homemade candied apples

The corner of East Linebaugh Avenue and North 15th Street may be the sweetest four-way intersection in North Tampa.

Motorists who make their way to the crossroads must make a complete stop. As they look to see if it is clear to proceed, they cannot help but see Carlos Smith.

On any given day, Smith sits in a lawn chair at the end of his neighbor’s fence. Beside him is a small stack of boxes. And on the top box are rows of big red candied apples.

On a recent morning, a school bus stopped at a nearby intersection provided Carlos Smith a bit of levity as the little faces peered from the bus windows.

“I want one,” a small voice yelled. Smith waved and smiled back.

For Smith, the four-way stop is one of his best advertisements, as passers-by are often tempted by his sweet fare. Take, for example, the driver of a white SUV who asked for a candy apple during his time at the four-way stop.

Smith quickly jumped up and delivered one to the passenger side. He collected the $2 he charges for the sweet treat and returned to his chair.

“I get a lot of school kids through here,” he said.

After all, his stand is on the way home for many schoolchildren who go to Shaw Elementary School and West University Charter School.

On Saturdays, Smith said, he is the busiest.

Smith said he has to up his supply because many kids come by on their way to Copeland Park, just a few blocks away.

Mothers pushing strollers and walking with their children always stop and a buy a few to bring home, he said.

“A few people say the $2 price tag on the apples is too much,” he said with a grin.

It is obvious they do not realize what it takes to make some 50 candied apples each week.

“I start my day at 8 a.m.,” he said. “After I get my son on the school bus, I head out for supplies. I don’t have a car.”

So Smith mounts his bicycle and rides, some days riding all the way to the Farmer’s Market on Hillsborough Avenue.

“I leave at 8 and get back here around 11 or 11:30 a.m.,” he said.

While shopping, Smith said he chooses the best big red juicy apples he can find.

“I have tried the green and the yellow, but the red are the juiciest and the best,” he said.

Once back home, he uses his secret recipe of melted sugar, corn syrup and vanilla extract, adding a wooden stick to the apples, then dipping them and waiting for them to cool. Each is wrapped individually in cellophane and twist-ties.

“People do not realize, I have to make them,” he said.

Because it takes several hours for the apples to cool, Smith said he has time to tend to his other job — cutting lawns.

Smith, a former employee of Coca-Cola, finds great peace in being his own boss.

“Making enough money is all about my son now,” he said.

An effortless entrepre-neur, the 33-year-old has plenty of patience. There are times he waits hours to make a sale and there are times where he has almost dozed off.

“I’ve come pretty close,” he said. “But I just get up and walk around.”

Because Smith lives nearby, he does not have to commute. Rather, he watches the commutes of others.

He has been selling the candied apples for a little over a year now. While most of his customers are students and their parents, a few police officers on patrol stop by for the sweet treat.

Smith is not sure if the officers have a sweet tooth or if they are buying them for their own children, he said.

On one occasion, a woman pulled up and asked to buy the biggest apple he had in the bunch. He sold it to her and received a $50 tip. The customer said she liked what he was doing.

And for those fans of caramel-coated apples, he’s tried them, but the product doesn’t hold up well in the Florida heat.

Depending on his supplies and the weather, Smith said he is at the corner under the shade of a large oak six days a week, bringing a taste reminiscent of the carnival to a nearby street corner.

“I have them right here,” he said with a smile.

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