The Indianola Pecan House, which started cracking 25 years ago, has gone from just shelling pecans with a staff of six in 1979 to a company with eight retail stores, in addition to a robust mail-order operation, plus accolades from the likes of Southern Living magazine.
In its special “Favorites” issue earlier this year, Southern Living magazine named Indianola Pecan House one of the best food finds in the South. Indianola Pecan House offers 26 flavors of Southern pecans, and works with wholesalers to develop custom flavors, specialized products and custom packaging. The company sells candies, cookies, pecan pies, pecan-flavored coffee and a variety of other gourmet food items and gifts.
“We were very pleased and honored to be included in the Southern Living ‘Favorites’ issue,” said Tim Timbs, president of Indianola Pecan House. “It feels great to be singled out by such a well-loved and respected magazine, and we’re especially happy to receive this recognition during our 25th year in business. The humbling thing is that these awards are selected by the readers of the magazine.”
Indianola Pecan House also recently took three first place awards at the Atlanta Gourmet Market, winning for best candy, best chocolate and best salty snacks.
“We make gourmet-quality coated pecans and cookies available at the best price with good service,” Timbs said. “Our customers basically run the company. We have to satisfy our customers for us to be successful. We have a great many customers who have been with us from the beginning.”
Watching it grow
The family business started in 1979. After Timbs graduated from Mississippi State University in 1984 with a degree in aquaculture management, he went into business with his father, Wheeler Timbs Jr. They decided to diversify from just cracking pecans for the public on a small scale, and started out with one variety of flavored pecan sold wholesale in 1986. It wasn’t until 1989 that they opened their first retail outlet.
Those early years they bought pecans from the Mississippi Delta area. Today, the company buys from six or seven different states, purchasing approximately six million to eight million pounds of pecans per year. The company has about 100 employees in Indianola from the season running from August until December, and an average of 10 to 12 employees at each store location.
“I can’t say enough about my employees,” Timbs said. “I have some great people who work with me. They really make it successful. We’re still a little family business. We all do whatever it takes. I don’t think of this as a big corporation. I don’t even like to refer to the office in Indianola as the corporate office. That is the kind of atmosphere we like to have.”
Obviously, it has taken a lot of product development to get the company to the level it is today.
“R&D is a lot of fun,” Timbs said. “With recipes, we come up with the idea first, take it back to the kitchen and work with it until we feel like it is what we like. Then we will introduce it to get feedback from our different stores. We send it to different people to get an honest opinion if they like it.”
Timbs said they have had a Web site since 1997, and it is an important part of the whole picture.
“It is a viable part of the business, one part of the total puzzle,” he said. “I don’t think by itself out there it would be very fruitful. But going along with everything else, it seems to help.”
The holiday retail season is the staff’s busiest time as their offerings are popular as Christmas gifts. In addition to the wares at their stores, and a booming mail-order business, they also sell wholesale to retail stores all over the country.
“We make a lot of people happy,” Timbs said. “Once people are introduced to our products, it is something they want to make part of their holiday traditions. We try to take the best quality pecan halfs, coat that pecan half with the best flavorings, package it and get it to the customer. We have customers all over the U.S. and abroad. But we are particularly grateful to our customers and vendors in Mississippi who are the backbone of our business.”
The business is located in one of the more economically-depressed areas of the state, the Mississippi Delta, so the jobs represented by the Indianola Pecan House are particularly welcome.
“I’ve been in the Delta all my life,” Timbs said. “I love the Delta. It is a great place to live and work. We’ve been able to succeed in business here. It has taken a lot of hard work, but we have been able to succeed here and branch out into other parts of the state and the U.S. We are proud to have our business here in the Mississippi Delta.
It has been fun. You never know where the next lead is going to come from for your next customer.”
New relationships, products
In August, Indianola Pecan House became a licensee of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey of Lynchburg, Tenn. Under the agreement, Indianola Pecan House is manufacturing and marketing the Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Praline Pecan, the first of several gourmet food products the company will make available.
“I developed a recipe that offers the best of both brands, and we’re all very excited about this relationship and our first new product,” Timbs said.
Indianola Pecan House has stores located in Indianola, Ridgeland, Hattiesburg, Tupelo, Meridian, Flowood, Baton Rouge, La., and Memphis, Tenn., and is online at www.pecanhouse.com.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.