Business is fruitful for local watermelon man

Billy Edwards works seven days a week, 10 hours a day. Why? Because it's watermelon season, of course.

Every morning Edwards loads his truck with hundreds of watermelons, and then drives to Hampton and Green Bay Avenue, next to Lincoln Park. There he sells more than 100 melons a day to people who drive up in their cars or walk over from nearby Glendale or the Rufus King neighborhood.

Watermelons nearly spill out of the back of his rig, and slices of fresh watermelon hang from hooks on the side of the rig.

"Selling watermelons means dealing with the public and the outdoors," says Edwards. "Luckily, I love both."

The watermelons range in price, depending on their size, from $5 to $11. This is a little more than you'd pay for a melon at a local grocery store, but according to Edwards, you can't beat the convenience or the taste.

"We have the sweetest watermelons in Milwaukee," he says. " I tell my customers 'take one home and if it's not to your liking, bring it back'."

Most watermelons are grown in Mississippi or Florida. The selling season starts at the end of May and runs until the end of September, but the very best time to buy a watermelon is at the end of June.

Edwards has a couple of watermelon-selecting tips. First of all, the bigger the "belly button" on the watermelon, the sweeter it is. Also, you can either slap or knock on the fruit to test for ripeness. "You want it to sound like there's a whole lot of watermelon inside," he says.

Edwards also recommends trying a watermelon with yellow meat, if you can find one. Because of the popularity of this rare fruit, he can't keep his truck stocked for more than a few days after a shipment.

The business is owned by Mac Baylor, who also has a number of fruit stands and grocery stores in the Midwest.

Just as Edwards demonstrates "putting up a watermelon" which means setting one of the melons on a special melon scale and writing the price on it with a black magic marker, two little girls approach the truck. One has a $10 bill in her hand and says, "We're going to have a seed-spitting contest."

Later, a man approaches the truck and says, "Give me a good one."

"No problem," Edwards replies. He carefully selects a seemingly perfect watermelon, carries it over his head and gently loads it into the customer's car.

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