Devastating Company Fire Bonds Community

A fire at the Priester's kitchen destroyed the building but Southern good neighborly charm and sense of family came to the rescue. Here you'll learn how Priester's took what could have been a devasting disaster and turned it around with the help of good ol' Alabamans. It's what makes Priester's Pecans "Absolutely Alabama!" And that's why Fox6 WBRC-TV News' Fred Hunter featured Priester's Pecans on the popular news segment "Absolutely Alabama." Fred chatted with Thomas Ellis and Ellen Burkett, co-owners of this vivacious family oriented business. Southern pride and a little bit of dignity are at the heart of the business. Priester's is especially proud of the premium quality of their pecans.

"The people in this outfit particularly, know what a good fresh pecan tastes like. When they get a Priester's Pecan, they get the best pecan anywhere." said Thomas Ellis, co-owner of Priester's Pecans.

How Southerners Really Pronounce "Pecan"

Meanwhile, Ellen Burkett commented on the often misquoted use of the word outside of the South because in Alabama, there's none of that Southern "twang." "In Alabama it's actually a "puh-cahn," but even in some areas of Georgia, they call them "pee-cans. So it doesn't matter to us, you can call them which ever you want; we know what you're looking for."

A Brief History of Priester's Pecans

Priester's has an interesting history rooted deep in Southern family tradition. That tradition of friends and neighbors shaking hands to start a business, seeing a need and full-filling it was started in 1935 when my grandfather, Hence Ellis and Mr. Priester formed partnership. Mr. Priester actually had a gas station and my Grandfather was a gas dealer and they lived in the small town of Fort Deposit. You know, they were neighbors and went to church together. Mr. Priester had put some pecans in his gas station that people would pick them in their yards so he started selling them. He asked my grandfather to start selling them and going into business with him and they started Priester's Pecans." said Ellen. The business grew from its original location to its familiar spot along I-65 in Alabama.

Disaster Strikes

One November night in 1996, the unthinkable happened. Fire broke out in the kitchen and the building quickly took ablaze. But the charming Southern hospitality stepped up to the plate and pulled the company from the ashes, allowing it to eventually become the multi-million dollar business it is today. For the friends, family, employees and neighbors, everyone is "kin." "The fire was a very devastating night." said Ellen."We just all grouped up the next day, all the workers, my brother and I and our father and we just made a plan. We cooked and baked items in our local schools. Our community and friends were wonderful and from that, we have this beautiful facility now." said Ellen.

From Fresh Pecans to Just Made Candy - 24 Hours or Less

The company emphasizes the freshness of its core product, the pecan. The new facility allows speedy delivery of fresh new crop pecans from the processing and shelling to the use of their pecans in candies, desserts, pies and baked goods.

"Our goal is to get those pecans in, get 'em processed. We turn them through this plant and when they come in the back door today, they may be in candy tomorrow." said Thomas. "Every day we have people walk in the front door and they go, wow I thought you just had pecans in here." said Ellen.

For Thomas and Ellen, the holidays just wouldn't be the holidays without a little taste of pecan pie . "I certainly hope not. That wouldn't be right would it?" said Thomas.

Priester's Pecans is a landmark , a destination and a story of determination. Most of all, the story of how Priester's begins and ends with those little pecans.

~Fred Hunter, Foxs6 News Absolutely Alabama.