N.C. pecan operation rises to the challenge of Christmas rush

by | Dec 15, 2023

Like many businesses, Elizabeth’s Pecans gets a big boost from the holiday shopping season. For the company based in Sampson County, this Christmas is no different. So the extra effort to be ready shifted to a higher gear around August and into September.

Squares of soft pecan brittle getting a chocolate coating at the Elizabeth’s Pecans facility.

“I start ordering extra cans and bags we use in the boxes and things like that, back in the middle of the summer. Then I start ordering my chocolate around late August,” said owner Alan Bundy as he explained the Christmas-specific preparations. “We gear up and triple the candy staff – people making, packaging and shipping it – and we start actually coating chocolate in mid-September to be ready for the season.”

The candy-coated pecans and unique soft pecan brittle have become a Christmas tradition for many North Carolinians who have been fortunate enough to discover Elizabeth’s Pecans. As with many good stories, there were a few twists and turns in the early days of the company that many customers may have never heard.

Elizabeth’s Pecans can trace roots to the early 80’s when Bundy’s father – a NASA engineer in Florida – planted pecan trees on land his wife inherited in North Carolina. He planned to run a small pecan farming operation in his retirement, but he died in 1989, and the younger Bundy decided to continue the vision. At first he was simply selling homegrown pecans, but then a Taste of N.C. Flavors show (run by NCDA&CS) connected Bundy with folks who could make his wife’s simple cinnamon pecan pralines on a larger scale. The Elizabeth’s Pecans candied pecan operation was born, and Bundy was soon trying to figure out a way to use the broken pecans inherent in the processing.

A box of Elizabeth’s soft pecan brittle.

Get a glimpse of the Elizabeth’s Pecans operation with this video on the company’s Facebook page.

“Some ladies that cooked the pralines said let’s make a brittle, but I didn’t want a hard brittle,” Bundy said. “So we spent all summer and burned a lot of money and pecans and vanilla and sugar and came up with our soft pecan brittle recipe.”

Elizabeth’s Pecans now has about 70 acres of pecan trees.

Bundy took the new soft brittle to the following year’s N.C. Flavors show, and it was an instant hit.

“I sold out in less than half a day, so we had to roll. They came in and worked that weekend to make more brittle. I got through the show, and ever since then it’s been our most popular,” Bundy said. “I now have 15 flavors [of various pecan products]. We do everything onsite. We grow the pecans. We make candy. We chocolate-coat everything and can it. All of that.”

Today, Bundy has about 70 acres of pecan trees for Elizabeth’s Pecans. While the soft pecan brittle has run away with the popularity contest, Elizabeth’s Pecans still offers lots of other pecan options. This time of year, the store in Turkey is busy with Christmas shoppers looking for them and all sorts of other gifts too. In addition to pecan treats, customers find lots of merchandise made in North Carolina or with a southern theme. So the name of the store is “Elizabeth’s Pecan Products …and A Taste of the South!”

The Elizabeth’s Pecans store decorated for Christmas.

After about three years of being open, 2023 will likely be the last Christmas for the store at 32 Railroad Street, near the intersection of Main Street and N.C. Hwy. 24 in Turkey. It has done so well that a new larger store is being built about a half mile down the road. The store will grow from the current 800 square feet to about 2,400 square feet in the new location.

Bundy’s wife selects the merchandise that’s for sale in the store. She has a separate full-time job, but it’s just one of the many ways she contributes to the family business. Bundy’s son-in-law also helps with the business, and his daughter steps in to add support during the holidays too. They both also work full-time elsewhere. So customers who buy Elizabeth’s Pecans can rest assured that they’re supporting a family business that grows its product right here in North Carolina.

If you can’t make it to the store, you can also shop online at https://elizabethspecans.com/