A family-run business operating in Harlem for more than 70 years has new owners.
Lucky Lady Pecans, Gifts & More, also known as Tracy-Luckey Co., recently was purchased by San Saba Pecan LP, a Texas-based pecan orchard and processing operation.
"We've been bought out and it is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful thing," said Ruth Tracy Blackburn, the CEO and granddaughter of Tracy-Luckey founder Francis Tracy. "It is going to be nothing but positive for Columbia County, for Harlem, for the entire industry."
In 1937, Francis Tracy and his parents, Arthur and Ruth Tracy, started shelling pecans in their converted garage and sold the nuts to retail and wholesale buyers, including candy and ice cream manufacturers and bakers.
Marion Luckey joined the management team of the then Tracy's Pecan Products in 1946 and became a partner a year later. The company was incorporated in the early 1950s and renamed Tracy-Luckey Co.
In 1983, Tracy-Luckey purchased the Funsten Nut Division of Pet Inc.
Blackburn said her grandfather and business mentor opted to step down as the company's leader in 2007. She joined forces with three others -- in-shell pecan broker Bud Luckey, Harlem native Larry Prather and CFO Ed Wicker -- as investors and owners.
Bud Adams, CEO of San Saba Pecan, said he entertained the idea of purchasing the company in 2007.
Adams said his family worked with the Tracy and Luckey families for three generations. When he decided to expand his pecan operation in the east, Adams said he immediately thought of Tracy-Luckey. The sale was finalized Dec. 31.
"We thought it was a good value," Adams said. "Knowing the reputation of the company and Ruth's reputation and the family's reputation, we felt like it was a good marriage."
Blackburn said the sale came about when co-owner Prather, who also owns Larry Prather Construction Co., wanted to retire. And Blackburn is thankful for Prather's two-year involvement.
"There's always somebody that gives you that chance to get on your feet," she said. "And he did it. He stuck his neck out for me."
Blackburn will remain CEO. Added financing available through the new owner will allow for any needed expansion for the company, and more employees working year-around, she said.
With China's growing interest in pecans driving prices up, Blackburn said, additional financial resources are a must to run a high-volume and efficient facility.
"Basically, it is just giving me the opportunity for about 10 times the financing that I had," she said. "It is just absolutely the biggest blessing that I have ever had come my way."
Adams said he plans to expand the company's value-added products -- the candy-coated pecans sold in individual gift packs through the company's Web site and retail store in downtown Harlem, and sold wholesale to retailers and manufacturers.
"We like the company the way it is," Adams said. "All we want to do is enhance it and go forward with it."
Blackburn said she still discusses company business with her grandfather, who now lives at Thomson Manor Nursing Home. He still has a big interest in the company and is happy about the sale, she said.
Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper said he hasn't met the new owner, but looks forward to it.
"I think it is a good thing," Culpepper said. "I think it is going to continue the stability that Tracy-Luckey has in the community. I don't think it can be anything but a positive move."
Renovations are under way in the former Buster's Pizza & Subs location, which is slated to be the new location of the Lucky Lady Pecans store. It will be open by the end of the month, Blackburn said.
With extra marketing, Blackburn said, the store and Web site has experienced record sales of the gift packs of pecans. Two new flavors are expected to debut later this year.
Continued growth in the company's candy production would allow employees, who are often laid off after the seasonal pecan processing is complete, to work all year.
"We will be running the candy production facility year-around," Blackburn said. "Candy production stays busy. It has never shut down."
Blackburn said she's happy about the sale and what it means for the future of the company she's worked at for 20 years.
"It's exciting," she said. "It is just like the best fit you could ever imagine."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.