Liz Nogowski

Merritt Pecan Co.

The wooden A-Frame building sits on Highway 520 in Weston, Georgia, almost halfway between Columbus and Albany. In fact, it’s the only stop on that long stretch of road—a road lined with pecan trees and farms in either direction. Regulars stop in the store for a cold Pepsi and a heaping helping of jumbo boiled peanuts. The non-regulars can’t help but stop. It’s a place from yesteryear, with tin signs hawking Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale and Mule Hide Roofs. If you love those childhood memories of old-fashioned candies, you can find a package of Necco Wafers right next to a Georgia-grown jar of pickled asparagus or peach chutney.

Some “regulars” make the trip but just once a year—stocking up on pecan pies (freshly made that morning) for the holidays, or some chocolate pecan fudge, which smells as heavenly as it tastes.

Welcome to Merritt Pecan Company & General Store, where Richard and Tammy Merritt have built their lives—and their business.

“You know, the reality is that people needed a bathroom break as they traveled on this road,” said Tammy Merritt. “And while they’re here, they like to shop. We get a lot of repeat customers, and we’ve built some wonderful relationships over the years.”

Richard has been farming since 1977. Merritt Pecan was formed in 1980, starting out as a small buying point for local pecans. Over the years, the store has grown, as has the buying point. But one thing that has never changed is that both he and Tammy listen to their customers.

“We meet a lot of people around the coffee pot,” Tammy said. “We try to listen to their needs.”

The storefront is what you see as you ride by, along with some of the 1,350 acres of pecans that Richard manages. The store itself serves as the gateway to an entire pecan operation behind the shelves of brown sugar pound cakes, local honey, and BBQ sauces of every variety. Their office, which the pair has shared for years, is where Richard handles the operations of the cleaning and shelling plant and Tammy manages all of the e-commerce—online orders that come from all around the world.

Behind the office is a commercial kitchen, with ovens that bake 24 pies at a time, and cooling racks for all of the sweets—cakes, pies, and candies. “There’s a method to my madness,” Tammy explains. “I’ve been baking since I was about seven years old. I love the rhythm of it. When I get into work in the morning, it’s the first thing I do.” Tammy bakes about 4,000 pecan pies a year.

Next to that is shipping, where employees, some of whom have been there for decades, ensure the products get to their customers. And behind that is where the pecans are shelled—including Richard’s pecans and nuts from other pecan growers—more than a million pounds of pecans each year. Richard says that every pecan season is different—“sometimes the stars align and sometimes they don’t.” Regardless, the Merritts have found ways to keep their business thriving, through online mail orders and digital marketing.

Listening Is What They Do Best

It was in 1992 that the Merritts decided that they really needed to add gas pumps at their store. The road often traveled had far too few opportunities for a break, never mind fuel. Later, they noticed that often their customers were on their way to or from a medical appointment and sometimes struggled with the bathroom door, especially if they were using crutches. Now, their doors open automatically. They also added an AED—an Automatic External Defibrillator—which is a device that can deliver an electric shock to heart attack victims. Tammy got certified to use it in case their store was the closest place for help.

“You know,” Tammy said, “GPS doesn’t work around here. So, for people who might get lost, we still sell an Atlas so that people can find their way.”

If you’ve not been to Weston, a road trip might be in order. Bring the grandkids. Get yourself some corn salsa and maybe a jar of spiced pickled peach halves.

Don’t leave without a pecan pie. You’ll become a regular. 

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