SEGUIN, Texas — The warehouse at Pape's Pecan House in Seguin is usually stacked at this time of year from floor to ceiling with 50-pound bags of fresh pecans. But this year, there is plenty of floor space.
Grace Kraft, the manager here, said recent record rainfall is to blame. Growers have been unable to get to the pecan trees in Guadalupe County because the ground is just too soggy.
“It made it hard for them to start harvesting, especially going out into the orchards. The equipment was getting stuck. They couldn't get out there,” Kraft said.
According to her, it's a tough time for growers across the southern United States, thanks in large part to recent storms.
“Hurricane Michael did a lot of damage to pecans in Georgia. All that rain hurt the whole pecan industry and the market has dropped and prices are down so a lot of people are holding onto their pecans," she said.
Still, Pape’s has pecans of many varieties and hungry buyers are coming to the Seguin favorite to stock up.
Cathy Chabot drove all the way from San Antonio because she is planning on participating in a baking contest, and she plans to win.
"They're fresh and they taste good and you can taste the difference in your baking things, so that's why I drive over here," Chabot said.
Velma Holm, meanwhile, came to buy nuts for family members.
“I am buying shelled pecans for my family in Illinois. They make a lot of gifts,” Holm said.
Holm said she does not send everything she buys out-of-state.
“My daughter-in-law makes pecan pies and they are really good,” Holm said, adding with a chuckle that no pecan dish is a bad thing.
Who can argue with that sentiment?
Linda Riley said she returns to Pape’s every year not just for pecans, but for the atmosphere and unique museum at the store.
"This is one of my favorite stores to come into," she said. "You can spend hours in here, and never see everything. It's truly amazing."
The museum is packed with pecan tools, memorabilia and nut crackers of every sort. A Lyndon Johnson cracker with a cowboy hat stands silently next to a Ronald Reagan lookalike. Darth Vader stands guard, as do a huge number of Easter-themed crackers that resemble whimsical bunnies. There is a Hillary Clinton cracker with stainless steel thighs and Santa crackers too numerous to count.
“It's amazing, the Christmas and the spirit that's here. It's a wonderful store," Riley said. "Everyone should come.”
Explaining the popularity of the store, Kraft said Pape's has been in business for over 60 years.
"It's a family business and they've been around for a long time and people just know the name and they want Pape Pecans," she said. "In the bins we have Mohawk, Choctaw, Kiowa, Pawnee and those are all soft-shelled, and then the Desirables are a little harder shelled. That's my favorite.”
Kraft said the family’s commitment to quality is the main draw.
“We won't buy them if they're not good. We open up the box and we taste them, and if they're not good or to our liking, we will turn them back,” she said.
Customers are welcome to sample the varieties in the store, choosing from large bins and picking quantities from one, three, five pounds or more. Kraft said many business owners have a tradition of sending pecan gifts to their favorite clients.
In addition to nuts in and out of the shell, Pape’s has a large selection of dangerously delicious sugary pecan treats, from chocolate-coated candy to chocolate pecans, pralines and even honey-toasted flavors.
To ensure shoppers convert to buyers, there is a sampling area where patrons can conduct an impromptu taste test.
"You taste the samples and you can't leave without buying anything," Kraft said.
Pape's is easy to find, located at 5440 South 123 Bypass, south of the Guadalupe River on the east side of Seguin.