The absolute best pralines that I’ve tasted are made in Sinton, TX (population 5,676) by Eleanor Harren who owns Aunt Aggie De’s Pralines (www.auntaggiede.com). The recipe was from her aunt and Eleanor has been making them commercially since the mid 80s. I was introduced to them by my mother-in-law, Mary Lee Emmert, who sends us a box of them every Christmas. She and Eleanor grew up together in Sinton.
I asked Eleanor how she happened to start the business. She told me, “My kids were all grown up with the youngest in law school, and I wanted to do something. I did some catering for a political event and everyone raved about the food. I started a small catering business, which never made any money, but I sure had a lot of fun. I served pralines as my signature item.”
“I decided to try selling the pralines in stores. I made three batches and took them to three Mexican restaurants in Corpus Christi. They didn’t want to buy them because they thought they were too expensive, so I left them at the restaurant. I told them; see if you can sell them. If you can, you can pay me. If you can’t, you can enjoy them yourself. By the end of the week, each one had called me back to order more. I started calling on stores in my station wagon.”
“That first year we sold about $17,000/month. Now we’re doing $1.5 million per year with 20 employees. When I first started, everyone thought it was a joke that I would get tired of. My husband Henry, who was a local doctor, was very supportive. He passed away 10 years ago and before he died he used to kiddingly say that he was no longer thought of as the town doctor, but rather as Eleanor’s husband.”
Eleanor and Henry were married for 43 years, raising two children. In walking around the town and her business, you could tell that she is very well respected in the community. I was in awe of her.
Here is a lady who is at an age that most people have already decided to slow down. Not Eleanor! She is not only running her company in an innovative manner, but she is feverishly trying to help her town to get back on its feet economically. She is the largest manufacturer in town and one of the major employers. I’ll write more about Sinton in tomorrow’s blog.