, Muskogee, OK

March 11, 2013

Nut-cracking business thrives through decades

Associated Press

— NORMAN (AP) – Brett Mason grew up in a houseful of nuts – literally.

“I remember our living room being full of bags of pecans. Everywhere you looked, they were stacked up,” he said.

In 1967, his parents, Bill and Karen Mason, had decided to serve as the “drop-off point” for people wanting to have their pecans cracked.

They knew the owner of the nearest cracking operation, which was in Ada.

“People would drop off their pecans at our house, and every weekend mom and dad would drive to Ada with them,” Brett Mason told The Oklahoman.

The couple advertised by nailing fliers to pecan trees and posting them around town, he said.

Bill Mason soon decided he wanted his own cracker and by 1968 found one to purchase.

“It was old, something out of the industrial age. It didn’t work well,” Brett Mason said.

Nonetheless, it marked the true beginning of Mason’s Pecans.

The couple operated the cracker out of their house on Findlay Street until 1971, when they bought the OU Motel in eastern Norman.

The family lived in part of it, rented out most of it and reserved a back room for the pecan cracker.

“It started as something of a hobby for them,” Brett Mason said, but the business just continued to grow.

Eventually, the couple bought a house on two acres of land near where the IHOP Restaurant is on Ed Noble Parkway.

When a Tecumseh pecan farmer died, Bill Mason bought the man’s three crackers, a sheller and a blower.

“We hired a manager for the motel and moved to the property on the west side. We ran the business out of our house again. We turned the one-car garage into a cracking room,” Brett Mason said.

The business thrived.

In the summer of 1983 the Masons built the building at its current location, half a mile west of Interstate 35 on Oklahoma 9.

By the late 1980s, they had bought most of the equipment from a peanut shop next door that closed.

In a few more years, Bill Mason added a bakery.

Sales took off.

Bill Mason died in 2005, and Karen Mason died in 2008.

Brett Mason, who had been living in Hawaii for about 20 years, came home in 2005 to keep the business alive.

“People ask me, ‘Why don’t you sell it?’ I tell them I can’t. I can’t sell Mason’s Pecans. It’s been here forever,” he said.

The business has its ups and downs, he said, with this year’s pecan crop being one of the best ever as far as quantity.

“I’ve had some people get as many as 400 pounds of pecans from one tree,” he said.

So many people have brought pecans to be cracked, he still has a waiting list.

A good crop is a mixed blessing, he said.

“It probably means my retail sales will tank next year, because people will have all the pecans they need,” Brett Mason said.

While many people know that the business sells pecans and peanuts, and does custom cracking and shelling of pecans, not everyone knows that the shop also sells other kinds of nuts, including pine nuts, as well as nut candies, honey, syrup, jellies, relishes, molasses, hot sauces and barbecue sauces.

Mason’s also operates a bakery and makes custom baskets.

The store is open seven days a week from mid-September through Easter.

After Easter, the store is open Monday through Saturday.