Saturday, November 24, 2012

CANE RIVER PECANS



Jady Regard, CNO
 Thirty-four years ago, I wrote an article about three enterprising young brothers who started a home-based pecan cracking business called “The Nutcrackers,” operated by the Regard boys of New Iberia, Louisiana. You can imagine how delighted I was a few days ago when I walked into the offices of the Cane River Pecan Company here in New Iberia and shook hands with Jady Henry Regard, CNO (Chief Nut Officer) of the original “Nutcrackers” business.

However, the ultimate surprise hung on the walls of the office – a framed copy of a thirty-four year old article entitled “Pecan Businessmen Beginning Young,” with my by-line, the ink on the paper as sharp and dark as the day the feature article first rolled off the presses of The Daily Iberian. Jady called in some of his staff to meet me, and I stood in the lobby of the office, sampling some of the finest gourmet quality pecans I’ve ever tasted. I had ordered a tin of the delicious pecans last winter when I arrived for my winter sojourn in New Iberia and later discovered that the company had an office and warehouse on Easy Street in New Iberia.

In the article about the “Nutcrackers” that appeared in the Sunday Iberian, I reported that the boys’ father, Dan Regard (now deceased), owned a pecan grove on the plantation “Alcock Place” in Natchitoches, Louisiana and had employed his sons to spend their after school hours and holidays cracking approximately 400 pounds of pecans a week, using a huge nutrcracking machine he ordered from San Antonio, Texas. The boys sold pecans from a shop adjoining the Regard home on Darby Lane. “We needed spending money and our dad believed in teaching us to work,” Jady said. The brothers put signs in store windows and advertised in The Daily Iberian during the start-up years of their enterprise.


Cane River painting by Mike Reagan
 Today, The Cane River Pecan Company grosses approximately $2 million in sales and sells pecans as far afield as Singapore, employing thirty people to prepare the handsome Cane River Company tins that contain a variety of products: roasted and salted pecans, chocolate covered and praline pecans, fresh-baked pecan chocolate chunk cookies, pecan pralines, and pecan praline popcorn.

“We don’t run ads; we’re headfirst into corporate business where we often sell 500 gift tins at a time,” Jady told me. “The real engine behind this company was my mother Margie. One year, when pecan prices plummeted, my dad sat down at the kitchen table with her and told her he was pretty depressed about the drop in prices, and she suggested trying to sell to retail companies around New Iberia. The business took off from there.”

Jady once worked as manager of corporate sales for the Chicago Bears and for the LSU Basketball team before he began marketing full-time for Cane River Pecan Company. He often distributes a Cane River map by artist Mike Reagan that showcases sketches of the great plantations in Cane River country. “I just give copies away to nice people," he said, flashing a smile at me, and I could see why the Cane River Pecan Company business burgeoned. A long road leads from the home-based “Nutrackers” enterprise to the Cane River Pecan Company on Easy Street – but then a long road leads from this feature writer’s career at The Daily Iberian to present-day book writing.

If you’re interested in seeing the wares of this company, you can log on to www.caneriverpecan.com. Corporations can order custom gift tins that feature their own logo and message on the lid of the tins. The company also features a tin with a reproduction of “Pecan Threshing” by Clementine Hunter, the famous Louisiana painter who lived and worked on Melrose Plantation near Natchitoches, Louisiana.



Post a Comment