Orangeburg Pecan Company is up for sale.

The 84-year-old, family-owned and operated Russell Street pecan shelling company’s 20,000-square-foot, 2.5-acre property spanning from Riverside Drive at the Edisto Memorial Gardens to Seaboard Street is on the market.

“I am ready to retire,” owner and President Freddy Felder Jr. said. “We are simply testing the market to see if there is any interest.”

“It has been great for our family,” the 71-year-old continued. “I have been doing it for over 40 years. I am ready to do something else.”

Felder says his two sons are successful professionals who have no interest in continuing the business and there are no other family members interested.

While the business is up for sale, Felder is not closing until the business sells.

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“We are open,” Felder said. “We are still in business.”

The property includes several buildings, including a pecan processing area as well as warehouse space. The property also has about 450 feet of Russell Street frontage. Pecan shelling equipment will most likely be sold to another pecan shelling company following the sale of the property.

“It has the bones to be just about whatever you want to make it,” Felder said.

Felder said he has seen some interest in the property, but nothing has materialized yet.

“The pecan shelling business is actually a pretty small thing nationwide,” Felder said. “There are approximately 25 commercial pecan shelling operations on Earth. Some have gotten really big. Some have come, some have gone.”

Felder said Orangeburg Pecan Company at one time was about a medium-sized operation, but has become smaller.

Today, the Orangeburg plant can shell a half-million pounds to 1 million pounds of pecans a year. It employs about 20 during the fall pecan-shelling season and about five year round.

It sells pecans retail, but also wholesales primarily to bakery supply houses, candy manufacturers, grocery stores and food distributors. The company also roasts and salts pecans for the ice cream industry.

“If it’s pecans, you want to talk to us,” Felder said. “It is very seasonal. Pecans come in once a year. On the retail side, everybody has pecans on their mind with Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts.”

Felder says he has considered selling the business to other pecan shelling companies. He looked to companies in Texas, but interest has been “very lukewarm.”

“A couple told me that ‘If we did that, probably what we would do is take all your equipment and move it out here and sell the property,’” Felder said.

Felder said he has also received some calls out of Charleston.

He has tried to sell it to someone locally, but he would most likely have to stay on board to help guide a new owner on how to manage the business.

“They don’t know anything about the pecan business and very few people do,” Felder said. “I am ready to retire. To do that, I need to sell this. I don’t think I want to do this working for somebody else.”

Felder said there was some interest from a young man who had ideas of transforming the property perhaps into a restaurant and art studio and had visions of tapping into the potential of Edisto Memorial Gardens.

The deal fell through.

Felder has also approached the City of Orangeburg.

“The logical choice of who ends up with this property is the city,” Felder said. “You can protect your interest in the Edisto Gardens. I think the gardens have been woefully underutilized through the years. That is what Orangeburg is known for. The gardens’ experience could definitely be improved with additional amenities.”

Orangeburg officials acknowledged Felder has approached the city about buying the property, but that no formal discussions have occurred.

Orangeburg Pecan Company was founded in 1939 on Russell Street by Marion H. Felder in a former lumber company.

Felder had been in the fresh fruit and produce business for years, operating one of the largest produce farms in the state.

Felder bought and sold in-shell pecans during the fall harvest season.

The arrival of the first commercial-quality pecan crackers intrigued the farmer, prompting him to purchase the new machines. In the fall of 1939, he began cracking and shelling pecans.

The concept of buying shelled pecans was a big hit. Orangeburg Pecan Company was born.

More machinery was added at the company each year through the late 1940s. Some of the plant still houses some of the older equipment.

After World War II, a larger plant was needed.

Felder’s son, Fred Sr., designed and built the new plant. It was fitted with the latest equipment and, through the years, additions and improvements have been made.

In the 1960s, the company built its own cold storage freezers to keep the pecans fresh through the hot summer months.

The freezer and an approximately 20,000-square foot warehouse is located on about 3.5 acres of property on Sprinkle Avenue. Felder said he could look to sell both the Russell Street and Sprinkle Avenue properties as one sale.

Electronic color sorting machines were added. The machines reject any shell fragments or undesirable pieces. The machine also does an infrared density scan and discards such items as metal or rocks.

Newer computer-controlled sorting equipment replaced the older units.

Felder noted one machine can do the work of 15 individuals.

In the early 1980s, Freddy Felder took over the business and renovated the plant to incorporate new air-controlled cracker technology.

“We added on through the years and the machinery got more space efficient, so it really got to the point where we don’t need all the space we have now, but we have it,” Felder said.

Although the company continues to utilize the latest in technology, pecans are still also handpicked and visually inspected.

The company’s pecans come from Georgia, where pecan orchards flourish. The state produces about 150 million pounds of the crop each year, compared to the South Carolina crop of about 4 million pounds in a great year.

“They are two different worlds,” Felder said.

Today, the company at 761 Russell Street still offers a variety of pecan flavors, including honey-roasted, chocolate-covered, cinnamon and milk chocolate, to name a few.

The pecans are sold as individual gift boxes, gift boxes by the case, candy gift boxes and for fundraising events.

The store is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, call 803-534-4277.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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