Fruit Vendor Opens His Own Shop on Bayou Road, Where Police Once Chased Him | Where NOLA eats

Mannie King has a knack for bringing the fresh flavors of his company Froot Orleans where people want them, even if they weren’t necessarily expecting them.

It started as a sidewalk stand for bowls of fresh fruit, juices and salads. He would set up outdoor churches, barbershops, even bars, serving street food with a health-focused mission.






A bowl of fresh fruit from Froot Orleans, a fruit parlor that started as a street vendor. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


Now Froot Orleans has his first dedicated location, a storefront right across from where he first rose to prominence working outdoors.

“It’s about balance, there aren’t too many healthy options in areas that need it,” King said.







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Mannie King started his business Froot Orleans as a street vendor making creative fruit bowls and other fresh, healthy meals. He opened Froot Orleans’ first store on Bayou Road, where he got his start outside. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


It is inspired by product sellers of the past and how they put their own mark on the business. The one he’s looking at is Arthur “Mr. Okra” Robinson, the late traveling salesman beloved for the way he sang the praises of his wares while roaming the streets.

Froot Orleans opened its new physical store in February. At the counter, you’ll find a variety of options for preparing fresh fruits and vegetables, and an open format for customization.







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Aries D prepares a salad at Froot Orleans, the fruit and salad parlor on Bayou Road. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


“Anything possible with fruit, we can do it,” he said. “We keep it healthy and make sure everything is personalized.”

King serves just-cut fruit bowls with homemade vegan sauces, as well as juices, smoothies and salads. Another specialty are fruit boards, a clever style for parties and event catering.







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A personalized fruit platter from Froot Orleans, the fruit and salad store on Bayou Road in New Orleans. (Photo provided by Mannie King)


The company was born after King wanted to show neighborhood kids what they could achieve with a little entrepreneurial zeal.

It was around the time of the Jazz Fest a few years ago. King bought a single watermelon.







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Mannie King prepares a bowl of fresh fruit at Froot Orleans, a fruit parlor that started as a street vendor. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


“We cut it into 20 bowls and sold them to people coming out of Jazz Fest,” King recalled.

The sunburned crowd bought them, and at $5 each, this unique watermelon fetched $100.

Soon King became a frequent presence along Bayou Road, a corridor lined with small neighborhood businesses.







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Mannie King started his business Froot Orleans as a street vendor making creative fruit bowls and other fresh, healthy meals. He opened Froot Orleans’ first store on Bayou Road, where he got his start outside. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


Navigating has not always been easy, with frequent visits from the police and disputes over street vending.

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For a time, he took up residence in a street art piece called Shotgun Temple, created decades ago by artist and neighbor Bob Tannen.

A mural of King remains on its side today.







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The street art piece dubbed Shotgun Temple on Bayou Road in New Orleans has a rendering of fruit vendor Mannie King (center), who got his start here. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


Eventually King moved on and he led Froot Orleans on a circuit of different outdoor locations. For a time last year, it had a spot inside the Circle Food Market on St. Bernard Avenue, which was part of an independent food court concept within the historic grocery store. This food court has since closed, however.

Now King is back on Bayou Road, and his full story has company, too.







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Mannie King started his business Froot Orleans as a street vendor making creative fruit bowls and other fresh, healthy meals. He opened Froot Orleans’ first store on Bayou Road, where he got his start outside. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


The shop is located in a recently refurbished former sheet metal workshop. The building also houses Leo’s Bread, Kate Heller’s bakery. She launched her brand as a pop-up, selling breads from the back of her car just across Bayou Road, outside the Pagoda Café.

The walls inside Froot Orleans feature a few murals but are otherwise bare. That’s because King plans to host guest artists on these walls. It also launched an open mic night on Sundays, starting at 6 p.m.







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Mannie King started his business Froot Orleans as a street vendor making creative fruit bowls and other fresh, healthy meals. He opened Froot Orleans’ first store on Bayou Road, where he got his start outside. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


The store counter is lined with maps and flyers for other local, black-owned businesses like this one.

“Most black-owned businesses had to struggle to grow, so they don’t forget,” King said. “They support each other. Sometimes people just need a place where you can find out more about them.







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A strawberry smoothie with granola topping from Froot Orleans, the fruit and salad store on Bayou Road in New Orleans. (Photo provided by Mannie King)


People who knew King from earlier legs of his journey returned, grabbing lunchtime juice or bringing stacks of bowls of fruit back to the office.







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A salad with kale, spinach, cucumbers, mushrooms and vegan ranch dressing at Froot Orleans, a fresh fruit and vegetable parlor off Bayou Road. (Staff photo by Ian McNulty, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)


King is excited to see where the company can go now, but says it all starts with the same push to make healthy food more accessible in his community.

“It’s not about where we are,” King said. “It’s about what we have.”

Froot Orleans

2438 Bell St., (504) 233-3346

Mon-Sat, 9am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm

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Laura J. Boyer