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How 'bout them pineapples? By Shane Dixon Kavanaugh
[ www.crainsnewyork.com ]

 Gourmet grocer Daniel Spitz's not-so-still life.

Fruitmonger Daniel Spitz sure can pick 'em.

The 84-year-old pioneer in the gourmet-food movement has devoted a lifetime to pursuing the world's finest oranges, plums and other produce. He opened his grocery store, the Orchard, in Brooklyn's Midwood neighborhood in 1957 with just $500-an amount that today barely buys five of the fruit shop's bountiful baskets of mango, melon and strawberries.

"My price was always higher than anyone else's," said Mr. Spitz, who makes no bones about a $4 peach. "But if someone ever looked at my fruit, they'd want to buy it."

Just ask former President Jimmy Carter, who ordered 50 boxes of Orchard pineapples for his inauguration party. And each year, scores of gourmands beyond Brooklyn make a pilgrimage to the Coney Island Avenue shop.

Throughout his 55-year career, Mr. Spitz has shown a willingness to do whatever it takes to find that perfect piece of fruit. When the Orchard opened, he'd go to a fruit auction held outside the Battery Tunnel in Manhattan at 3 a.m. to rifle through boxes of plums, apples and melons. He flew to Hawaii in the 1960s to bring some of the first fresh pineapples back to the Big Apple. And he's even made trips to farms in California and Florida to survey their soil and trees. "They called me the Department of Agriculture," said Mr. Spitz.

These days, his 2,000-square-foot storefront is home to a host of rare and exotic fruits-California white apricots called snowcots, donut peaches, elephant plums. Ever try a mangosteen, a sweet and tangy fruit from Indonesia best eaten wearing a bib? At $25 a pound, it's an expensive habit-one Mr. Spitz has no intention of quitting anytime soon.

"This business," he said, "is like a drug."

A version of this article appeared in the Sep. 17, 2012, print issue of Crain's New York Business.