Ellis Bros. Pecans
Ellis Bros. Pecans, founded and operated in Vienna by the Ellis family, produces a variety of foodstuffs made from such Georgia crops as pecans, peanuts, and peaches. Originally bought primarily by road travelers en route to and from Florida, the company's products are sold today over the Internet and include gift packages as well as clothing, candles, and cookbooks.
The company's founders, Marvin and Irene Ellis, bought their first pecan grove in Vienna in 1944. They were strictly pecan growers at first, but things changed when Marvin asked his son Elliott, then a county extension agent, to take over the family business in 1977. Elliott, who had helped his father in the grove as a nine-year-old, pushed the company from pecan growing into selling a variety of pecan-based products and raising peanuts, peaches, and cotton. In 2006 Elliott's sons, Brad and Keith, help him manage the shelling plant and retail store located near the family's original orchards in Vienna, close to Interstate 75. Until her death in June 2006, his mother, Irene, still worked in the retail section, which sells many of the treats made from her original recipes.
Popular products include the company's broken-up pecan pieces (which sell better than the large ones), pecan brittle, fig preserves, pecan butter, onion pepper relish, pecan syrup, peach preserves, and pickled peaches.
Eighty percent of the world's pecans are produced in the United States, and Georgia is one of the nation's top producers. In a good year, the state produces at least 100 million pounds of pecans, or about 1,000 pounds an acre. With about 1,200 acres of pecan trees, Ellis Bros. could produce at least 1 million pounds of pecans a year. But excessive rain since the mid-1990s has made it difficult to spray for fungal diseases, causing up to half the state's crops to be wiped out. In 2004, after hurricanes Ivan and Frances hit middle Georgia, pecan trees were ripped out of the ground, causing great losses for growers and increased prices for consumers.
Yet Ellis Bros. has been able to endure the market's ups and downs. In 1992 the company won a family business award from the Cox Family Enterprise Center at Kennesaw State University. The company won in the "under fifty employees" category and was chosen because of its proven business success, good family and business ties, multigenerational family involvement, innovations, and strategy as well as its contributions to industry and community.