Nestled on an orchard off U.S. 98 in Fairhope, Alabama, B and B Pecan Company is located behind the home of Clarence and Sandra Bishop.
The Bishops founded the family business in 1956 and partnered with Sandra’s father, Calvin Brown thus naming it the B and B Pecan Company.
Clarence was 24 years old and had been an accumulator for a pecan business in town. Sandra, then 20, was an accountant at the bank. She was pregnant with their first child. She wanted to stay home but she also wanted to contribute financially while raising their young family
The family purchased a small mail order pecan business from a resident in Fairhope and started the operation with just five acres. They had a 200-person mail order list and one cracking machine which still works today!
Fifty-five years later, hard work and dedication have enabled the mail order business to grow from 200 to more than 12,000 customers.
The products offered by the B and B Pecan Company range from roasted pecans to a wide variety of candied pecans and other related gifts. Sales from their web site continue to increase and a storefront on their property offers locals and many “snowbirds” to select from a variety of pecans grown on the B and B Pecan Company's 100 acre farm.
But it has not been a family business without a lot of heart-wrenching setbacks. Over the years the family has had to cope with major storms that have hit the area around Mobile.
The five major hurricanes the B and B Pecan Company has weathered have put a dent in the number of nuts produced locally each year. In many cases the hurricanes have taken the whole crop, plus a lot of trees. The family has lost as many as 300 to 400 trees in one hurricane. Often, when hurricane season produced the storms that have hit the southern coast of Alabama, coincides with the season when the trees held the newest crop of pecans - but they were not ready to be picked so a major part of the harvest was lost.
But the problem is more than having lost a single crop of pecans when the trees are damaged or destroyed. It takes about 12 years for a pecan tree to grow and to produce a meaningful crop of nuts. As a result of the hurricanes, the family doesn’t have enough of their own pecans to supply their growing business. The family must search for other growers, who produce the best varieties of pecans, to help supply the needs of their business.
As the business has grown through the years, so has the family. The Bishops have 3 children, 12 grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren.
Each has learned the importance of hard work and dedication when it comes to farming or any job they undertake. Today, two of the three children - Doug Bishop and Mona Barfield work alongside their parents.
Doug loves the farm and researches the best way to take care of the trees to have a crop each year. Mona, a retired school teacher, offers her technology skills to help with marketing and her teaching skills to offer tours for visitors, researchers and students interested in learning about pecans.
“We continue to invest in our farm. Just this past year we planted 250 trees, pampered them through the spring and summer drought by watering them with 10 gallons a tree each week,” says Sandra Bishop. “Hard work and dedication to our customers allows us to have a great family business.”
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