PLANT CITY — Troy Wilson has always been the kind of person who loves to prepare food for other people. “If friends came over, he would always fix extra to make sure they ate before they left,” said Betty Wilson, Troy's wife of 26 years. “So when he called me at work one day to tell me he was looking at a place for a sandwich shop, I wasn't surprised.”
The Wilsons own the Strawberry Hut sandwich shop in Plant City, 1505 N. Wheeler St., which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The shop's number one seller is the Cuban sandwich, which has been voted “Best in Plant City” by Focus Magazine readers for five straight years.
“Our large Cuban is 12 inches instead of nine, and our half Cuban is six inches instead of four and a half,” Wilson said. “We also offer more meat on our subs, and we get our tomatoes and veggies from the farmers market, so they have that fresh taste.
“Our bread is delivered every morning straight from the bakery because our customers should get it just as fresh as if they were making it at home.”
That personal touch has been a major factor in the Strawberry Hut's longevity.
“They are wonderful people, and it was a wonderful place to work,” said Jane Gonzalez, tourist information specialist for the Plant City Chamber of Commerce. Gonzalez worked for the restaurant about 15 years ago.
When the Strawberry Hut first opened its doors in July 1993, it was a family business in the strictest sense of the word.
“Troy and I, along with his mom and dad, were putting in 70-80 hours a week because we could not afford employees,” Betty Wilson said. “We still laugh about it today, but we were praying our first customer would not give us a $20 bill because we did not have enough money to make change.”
Although that relatively minor prayer was answered, Betty Wilson credits the couple's faith as the biggest reason for her family's success.
Prior to opening the Strawberry Hut, the couple took part in street ministries and local revivals. Troy Wilson has lived in the area all his life and also owns the Plant City-based Xact Builders construction company. Betty Wilson moved to Plant City from Georgia when she was 11. The couple has also started an independent, non-denominational church, 214 W. Alexander St., next to the movie theater.
However, their bread and butter — so to speak — has been the sandwich shop.
Besides the Cuban sandwich, the menu is peppered with personal touches. The recipe for Spanish Bean Soup, for example, came courtesy of Troy Wilson's late aunt. The shop also makes its own buttermilk ranch dressing, while its honey mustard dressing was developed by Troy Wilson and his mom.
The Strawberry Hut employs 9 people. The Wilsons have five children, and the two eldest — Michael and Lauren — help out with the shop. In the future, the Wilsons hope to expand the Strawberry Hut. Betty Wilson said she's leaving the rest up to a higher power.
“I'm not sure what God has in store, but I do know we have had a lot of people asking for another Strawberry Hut in their town so they don't have to drive so far,” Betty said.
The Strawberry Hut is open Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. For more information, call (813) 752-3779 or visit www.thestrawberryhut.com.