Bass Pecan brings nuts to Natchez, world

Published 12:02 am Sunday, January 13, 2008

NATCHEZ — Karren Ewing is passionate about pecans. The outside sales representative for Bass Pecan Company’s Natchez location can rattle off the 21 different pecan flavors without skipping a beat. From honey roasted to mint julep flavored, she knows them all.

Ewing is part of the company’s efforts to spread a love of pecans outside of the Southeast. Bass Pecan co-owner Andy Copeland said the company opened its Natchez location in an effort to bring pecans to the rest of the country.

“Tourism really drove our decision to locate in Natchez,” he said. “We wanted to reach people who don’t know what a pecan is or what it’s supposed to taste like.”

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Copeland, who was raised in Natchez, purchased the century-old business in 2006. The Natchez store opened just a few months later.

“When we were talking about how to expand the company, one of the main things for us was having a store in Natchez,” he said. “It’s been very successful for us.”

The Franklin Street location offers all of Bass Pecan’s products, from fresh pecans to pecan divinity.

“With us you get fresh pecans,” Ewing said. “We sell only the current year’s crop. Other retailers don’t do that.”

Bass Pecan’s commitment to quality, fresh pecans is one of the main reasons the company has flourished for the past 100 years.

The company’s founder, I.E. Bass, planted his first pecan tree in Lumberton in 1906. His orchard soon grew and by 1908 Bass was selling the crop to friends and family. Just one year later, Bass Pecan published its first catalog selling pecans and pecan trees. In the 1930s, the company was mailing out more than a million catalogs across the world. The catalog not only included pecans and pecan trees, but also land for sale that was perfect for pecan orchards. Members of the Bass family guided the company until the mid 1990s.

“This company was huge back then,” Copeland said. “They mailed out more catalogs than Sears Roebuck.”

Copeland said it’s this history and success he is hoping to bring back to the company.

“The biggest thing for us is to bring back the Bass name,” he said.

Part of that effort was bringing back the pecan tree sales, Copeland said. Just like it had in the 1920s, the company again is selling the trees from its Lumberton location. Ewing said the trees can be purchased and shipped just about anywhere.

The pecan business has been good to Copeland and his partner. The company currently has three retail locations, and is planning a fourth. They also have a large catalog base and a thriving Web business. To put it simply, Copeland said, people love pecans and they always will.

“Pecan is a gourmet nut and there aren’t that many growers,” he said. “Nuts are a big business.”

Currently most of the company’s business is holiday based, but Ewing said they are trying to change that.

“Christmas is huge for us, but we want to make it a year-round occasion,” she said. “Pecans aren’t just for the holidays. You can do all sorts of things with them, from pecan brittle to pecan coffee.”

If it can be made with pecans, Bass Pecan probably offers it. The company sells pecan pepper jelly, pecan syrup, pecan pancake mix and of course, pecan pies.