“He told me the same story about the orchard every weekend, and he loved it,” said Walls, who owns the Seguin-based pecan wholesale company 38 Pecans, which operates a seasonal retail store in Northwest Austin. “Really he was just educating me on pecans and his endeavors, putting the place together and doing all the hard work.”
When his grandfather, a dentist, bought the orchard in the late 1940s, he did not know what to do with the more than 1,000 native pecan trees. After studying how to grow different types of pecans that are larger and more desirable than native pecans, Walls’ grandfather ended up with about 38 varieties, a number that inspired the company name.
Several decades later, Walls said he told his wife he had to get back to the family business.
“I told my wife my passion is really these pecans,” Walls said. “I always talked about it, and I always went back to it in conversation to our ranch and our orchard.”
Today the company has two orchards in Seguin with about 5,000 total trees managed by Walls’ father and a seasonal retail storefront on RM 620 that is open from mid-October through January.
Walls focuses on selling pecans in bulk as well as selling gift items to individuals and companies. One of 38 Pecans’ biggest clients is Texas-based produce supplier Hardie’s Fresh Foods, which distributes to restaurants throughout Texas.
Walls said he sees 38 Pecan’s production power as an opportunity to continue expanding. His goals include keeping the retail storefront open year-round, opening a second retail location and distributing to grocery store chains, chefs or restaurant groups.
“Anything that has to do with pecans, we want to be that storefront for Austin and the surrounding area,” he said.
Although Walls set ambitious goals, he said he wants to approach them methodically.
“Growth is good, but the right kind of growth is more important [and] having a strategy behind it is critical,” Walls said.
He said customers come to him with a common expectation that only a local, third-generation pecan grower can live up to.
“They’re looking for something that’s fresh; they know where it’s coming from; and it flat-out tastes good—period,” he said.
What is PECAN MEAL?
Pecan meal is the fine shavings of pecans created during the shelling process, 38 Pecans owner Mark Walls said. Plain pecan meal can be used as a flour substitute or for breading in baked or fried foods, but Walls worked with Manor-based spice company Southern Style Spices to develop the six flavors.
"A big focus of ours is try to really get that [product] out there, and not just in Texas but as far as it will go in the U.S.,” he said. Savory pecan meals can be used to bread chicken, pork chops or seafood, and the sweeter dessert meals can be used in pie crusts or on top of ice cream and cupcakes.
10208 N. RM 620, Austin
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-3 p.m., closed Sun.