The Sun News

Q&A with Rick Sasnett

City of residence: Fort Valley

Occupation: Manger, Sasnett Fruit & Nuts

Q: Who started Sasnett Fruit & Nuts? And when?

A: Actually, I started the fruit stand back in 1981-82, a few miles down the road from where it is now at 3801 U.S. 41.

Q: And you’re the owner?

A: My mother, Jo Sasnett, is owner and I run it. She has Alzheimer’s and resides at my residence in Fort Valley. It’s really a family business, including my sister Brenda Brinson, who lives in Statesboro.

Q: The Sasnett name has been associated with peaches for a good while in Middle Georgia. How did that come about?

A: My dad, Burl Sasnett, managed operations for the Gunn brothers and their peach and farm operations going way back. Gunns later became Westbury Properties. You can still see remnants of the peach packing plant there on (U.S.) 41 near Centerville. The ride between Warner Robins and I-75 used to be almost all peach groves. There’s a place in Centerville on Watson Boulevard, the 247 Connector, that the Gunn brothers built for us to live in back in those early days.

Q: So how does your father, Burl, fit in with the fruit and nut stand?

A: When he left Westbury he came to this and made it what it is today. He moved it up the road from where it started to where it is now and made it what it is and added nuts to the fruits and vegetables. He started the pecan shelling business.

Q: What was the transition to him taking over?

A: We ran it together for a while, then in ’95 I got hurt and stepped out. That was a time when the economy was bad, too, and it was just a good time for me to step out and he went on to grow the business in a whole new way.

Q: Today, it’s a thriving, old-style, roadside fruit, vegetable and nut stand. What was it like before the move?

A: It was part of our 55-acre farm and roadside stand. We had you-pick-‘em peaches and what-not. It was on the west side of (U.S.) 41 right where Giles Road goes into it. I built the house there for me and my family. I moved to Fort Valley in 2004.

Q: So you started a fruit stand, your father came in and the moved it and grew it after you left. What did you do?

A: Like I say, I was injured and during that time I messed around with computers a lot and got pretty good with them. I started and own Computer Dreams computer sales and repair in Centerville on Watson.

Q: So you’re a high and a low-tech businessman?

A: Yeah, you could say that. My dad had a heart attack in 2012 right before Thanksgiving and passed away in January 2013. I started managing the business for him when he was in the hospital and never got out. I manage it for the family now.

Q: How is business?

A: It’s migrated more from fruit and vegetables to nuts and shelling. We still sell a lot of your regular summer and winter produce, but the nuts and shelling have surpassed fruits and vegetables. We appreciate our customers and I think we have a place people like to come to.

Q: You still grow a bit on the corner lot, don’t you?

A: Some, but most everything comes from elsewhere. Pecan production has been down the last couple of years and we’ve done less shelling, but we’ve kept the price for shelling the same. We’re a mid-size operation, not a giant commercial sheller. But we’re one of the few business like us in Georgia.

Q: How many pecans do you shell on a good year versus a bad year?

A: I’d say we move about 150,000 pounds through buying, brokering and shelling in a good year and more like 25,000 in the past several not-so-good years.

Q: But you’re in full swing for produce now?

A: We got a late start because of a lightning strike and a number of repairs we had to do, but we’re up and going.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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