By Theadoris Morris
Heaton Pecan Farm has numerous homemade delights to cure even the strongest sweet tooth.
Located off Interstate 65 Exit 208, John and Billie Heaton opened The Barn, which first began as a hobby, 10 years ago. The two purchased a grove of large pecan trees in 1962 that were planted as far back as 1919.
A year later, the couple began their pecan business, marketing whole pecans to customers. As business grew, they built a shelling plant, established a mail order business and expanded their inventory to include not only whole pecans but also chocolate coated, roasted and other candied treats.
On Jan. 5, 2005, John Heaton passed away, leaving the legacy to be carried on by his wife, Billie, and his family, including daughter Lisa, son Charles, and grandchildren Chase and Haley.
Billie Heaton, who is now retired but is still helping operate The Barn, said their purpose is mostly to sell pecans and pecan products, but receiving positive feedback from customers is her favorite part of running the business.
“We always ask our customers how their food is, and they always say everything is wonderful,” said Heaton. “It’s a pleasure to make people happy, and they are happy when they are here.”
The doors of the white barn trimmed in green are open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In its busiest season, 20 to 25 employees help operate the family-owned business.
“If a person has never been here before, the first thing we offer them is a sample of our chocolate covered pecans and samples of our ice cream,” said Nicole Tyus, store manager. “We let them know that everything is handmade and homemade.”
The Barn is known for its various pecan pleasures that are freshly made every day in the store’s kitchen.
“We roast our pecans before we do anything with them,” said Heaton. “That’s what keeps them fresh and crunchy.”
Seven-pound chocolate bars are sent through a heating and cooling machine onto roasted pecan halves to create milk chocolate and white chocolate pecans—they’re the best sellers, Heaton said.
Their gourmet pecan halves are also available in praline and roasted. Other pecan delicacies include: pecan brittle, pecan logs, billionaires, chocolate pecan bark, pralines, milk chocolate pecan fudge, peanut butter fudge, pecan pies, pecan pie tarts and pecan fruitcake. Most of these candies are available sugar free as well.
Heaton describes the pecan logs as nougat center covered with caramel and rolled in pecan pieces. Their billionaires are caramel made with real whipping cream poured over roasted pecan pieces and covered with real milk chocolate, and the chocolate pecan bark is roasted pecan pieces in pure milk chocolate or creamy white chocolate.
These treats can be purchased as gifts, and with winter being the busiest time of year for The Barn, they offer special holiday gift boxes, tins and tubs filled with Heaton’s famous candies.
Pecans are not the only things Heaton has to offer.
The Barn serves 11 assorted flavors of homemade ice cream and milkshakes; Belgian waffles; salads and soups; and grilled gourmet, specialty and deli-style sandwiches.
“We’re a tourist attraction, and we get people from all over coming in,” said Heaton. “People from foreign countries and everywhere stop by, and we ask them where they’re from and give them samples of our ice cream. Our best seller is the peach pecan, but you better go ahead and eat it or it will melt. You know, they say the best ice cream melts the fastest.”
Heaton is also known for its pecan chicken salad plates and its selection of homemade cakes.
“We can make 20 cakes at one time by hand,” said Heaton. “We’re the only one that makes them in this area. We make white chocolate pound cakes, red velvet and others, but the cream cheese pound cake is my best seller.”
Heaton is not about keeping its refined recipes as secrets; the store offers 63 pages of the best recipes in a cookbook, Cooking with Heaton Pecans.
The recipes include appetizers like pecan bread to pecan and apple stuffed celery; pecan chicken salad turnovers to orange pecan stuffing for entrees; sweet potato pecan balls to baked stuffed onions for vegetables and apple pecan cake to banana split pie for dessert.
“We print 1,000 cookbooks a year,” said Heaton. “We publish them locally, and they sell really well.”
In addition to sweets and lunch, Heaton also sells gifts, home décor, jewelry and other items in its store.
To commemorate Christmas, the store is embellished with Christmas displays and holiday and winter décor. Glittery Christmas ornaments, children’s books, toys and other holiday knick knacks can be purchased at The Barn.
Other items include: collegiate paraphernalia; cook books; clocks; Trapp Private Garden scented candles in assorted scents; fashion jewelry; kitchen ware; greeting cards; paintings and pictures; books and Heaton Pecan’s own jellies, jams, butters and syrups.
Various salsas and dressings are also available for purchasing to add flavor to any entree.
Heaton recently began carrying CrabTree and Evelyn body lotion and Handtherapy Collection brands.
“We sell everything that we think people would like,” said Heaton. “We welcome all of our customers.”
Customers can have their pecan candies, pies or jellies shipped to them or someone else as a gift by ordering online, mail-in, fax or by calling their 1-800 number.
Heaton also caters box lunches to local businesses.
For more information, call 800-446-3531 or visit Heaton’s website at www.heaton.com.