Manufacturing and retail of black walnuts
HAMMONS PRODUCTS COMPANY
“The Black Walnut People”
Stockton is known as “The Black Walnut Capital of the World” because its leading industry is the world’s largest commercial processor of Missouri’s official state tree nut, the American Black Walnut. Hammons Products Company, a 67 year-old family company in its third generation, employs 80-100 people and processes about 25 million pounds of nuts each year. The story of both the company and its product is intriguing and unique. As company president Brian Hammons says, “no one else in the world is blessed with the opportunity to do what we’re doing with nature’s gift of Black Walnuts.”
Each fall, wild Black Walnuts are collected by hand from wild trees in 10 producing states in the Midwest and East-Central United States, 65% coming from Missouri. The harvest involves thousands of people, particularly in the Ozarks. Those people then identify with black walnuts for many years, even decades. Memories are vivid of crisp October afternoons with the family spent picking up nuts, then selling them and using the money for something special. Many remember grandma’s special black walnut cake she always made for the holidays, with that rich, natural black walnut taste. Or perhaps brownies, fudge, or ice cream.
Whatever the treat, black walnuts’ unique bold flavor as a food ingredient, plus the fall harvest event, bring to mind many special memories. Even the ground nutshells provide a useful product -- for industrial cleaning, filtration, oil drilling, cosmetics, and many other things.
Though Hammons Products was not the first business to commercially process wild black walnuts, the company grew to be the leader of the American Black Walnut industry, recognized for quality, service, and integrity. It all started in 1946 when Ralph Hammons, a local grocer in Stockton, bought a small nut cracking machine and processed 100,000 pounds of local wild nuts. Over the years, with a lot of help and hard work, Ralph grew the business. By the 1960’s it was the leading company in the industry. Ralph died in 1973, but by then his son Dwain had taken leadership and continued to build the business as it gained a state-wide and even national reputation. Dwain retired in 1999 but still serves as Chairman of the Board. Today, Brian Hammons is the third generation leader of the company. And David Hammons, the 4th generation, is V.P. of Marketing.
The Stockton shelling plant has expanded with a capacity to process nearly 150,000 pounds of nuts every day and 30 million pounds each year. Through the years, literally hundreds of people have worked to help the business succeed. Dozens worked with Hammons Products for much of their working lives, with many retiring from the company. So it really is the people -- those employees, customers, and folks who pick up nuts each fall – that make Stockton’s Black Walnut business special and successful.
Recent years have seen continued improvement to face new challenges. When the 2003 tornado devastated Stockton’s business district, the company’s plant lost 8 buildings and sustained millions in damages. Still, Hammons Products renewed its commitment to the community and rebuilt to become an even more visible presence. One part of that was the movement of the company’s retail nut shop to the rebuilt town square. The “Hammons Black Walnut Emporium” now offers Stockton’s residents and visitors a unique shoppe featuring fresh nuts of all kinds, specialty coffee drinks, gourmet ice creams, gifts, pastries, Christian books, and more. The website, www.black-walnuts.com, offers all the Emporium nuts and some gifts online, while also providing online information about black walnut recipes, huller locations, and lots of general information about the company and its products.
As Hammons Products has built a national reputation as the American Black Walnut industry leader, its base remains firmly planted in rural Stockton, Missouri. Most of its employees, including its key leaders, are from Stockton and the surrounding area. And after adapting to changing technologies and food industry trends, its future looks stable and bright. So 67 years should easily grow to 75, 100, and more. And Stockton will continue to be the proud “Black Walnut Capital of the World” for many years to come.
- Street: 105 Hammons DR
- Postcode: 65785
- City: Stockton
- State: MO
- Phone: 417-276-5181
- Fax: 417-276-5187