Off U.S. 1 in Key Largo, visitors scour through Violet Wahba’s vast assortment of unique, Keysey items for the home and garden. With a display of lawn furniture and signs outside Key Lime Products, patrons enter inside to a menagerie of statues, figurines and more.
Owner of the store for the past two years, Wahba makes it a priority to greet each customer with a “hi” and “welcome” as they enter. It’s all part of the experience when frequenting the store at MM 95.2, oceanside.
With wood carvings, ceramic and metal art, Wahba also sells bath and beauty products, candles, candy and other treats like Key lime pies. Patrons spend time outside checking out products before making their way inside to check out more unique items. Wahba said she can’t help but enjoy the store’s atmosphere.
Wahba compares walking through the doors to her business to a kid’s glowing face on Christmas. She always wanted a business in Key Largo, and then came the opportunity to run Key Lime Products, which was previously owned by John McCarthy. Wahba not only finds happiness with the many items surrounding her at the store, but she also enjoys the freedom talking to first-time visitors and the frequent faces.
“I’ve spent most of my life in customer service. I worked in the bank and in resorts, so I’ve always interacted with people,” Wahba said. “I may have had this location for two years, but I’ve been in this business for about 15 years. So the business itself isn’t new for me.”
Wahba looks back on a moment when she was with a customer. To the side of the checkout counter, she noticed a man watching her. Come to find out, the man was an old vendor of the store.
“He was standing there and he was waiting for me to finish with the customer. And he said, ‘By the way, you have a nice attitude. You are really happy when you see somebody. You’re sincere when you greet them.’”
For Wahba, the customers are precious.
“How are we going to do business without them?” she said. “I’m really happy to see them coming in and finding stuff they like. When they like the stuff, that brings me happiness knowing I picked the right stuff.
“When somebody says ‘You have too much stuff,’ I say ‘No I don’t,’ because I always have in my mind that there’s more to get,” Wahba continued. “A lot of people will send me pictures of the stuff they buy in their backyard or in their home.”
Moments of happiness also bring times of perseverance for the Key Lime Products owner. Wahba’s store was recently hit by a string of burglaries. A 48-year-old Key Largo man was arrested on Nov. 3 for stealing between $15,000 and $20,000 in items.
It all began in mid-September when the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office was called to the store. Multiple LED signs and 15 boxes with ceramics and pottery were gone.
On Nov. 1, her store was hit again. This time, $4,500 worth of fixtures and souvenirs were missing. Detectives said it appeared that a portion of the fence was cut to gain entrance to Wahba’s property.
A breakthrough in the case occurred on Nov. 2, when the sheriff’s office responded to a Lime Street residence for a report of a burglary with $458 in cash stolen. A witness who saw someone breaking into the residence identified the subject, Shane Everett Earp. Detectives visited Earp’s residence and discovered items from the Key Lime Products store in plain sight. A search warrant was obtained and Earp was taken to jail.
Wahba admits that she went through hell with the recent string of burglaries. But she carries on with a big smile, awaiting patrons to walk through her door.
“I love what I do and I can’t wait to welcome customers in,” she said.
Along with her business, Wahba enjoys giving back to the community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wahba used her store as a pickup location for hot meals in collaboration with the late Mike Forster and his nonprofit, Mangrove Mike’s Endeavors. She’s also a Key Largo Sunset Rotarian.