Lowndes County natives supply handcrafted merchandise to Priester’s Pecans retail store

Published 6:50 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2022

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Priester’s Pecans in Fort Deposit boasts a wide selection of handmade merchandise produced in Alabama. 

Two of the suppliers craft products available at Priester’s in nearby Lowndes County communities.

Calhoun community native Andrew McCall began making handcrafted churches, baskets, tables, and birdhouses nearly 40 years ago, out of need to feed his growing family.

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“I tell people that when I got started, it was anything but fun,” McCall said. “I used the word ‘needful.’ I was in a bad way and needed a job. I was pretty good with my hands.”

Someone asked McCall to make a grapevine wreath, which led him to start crafting Wisteria and grapevine baskets. He’s been making them ever since.

For the past two years, travelers stopping by Priester’s have been purchasing his churches and the vine baskets he makes with his wife Etta. Shoppers who visit on Friday and Saturday can meet McCall and watch him demonstrate making a basket.

The McCall’s products are sold all over Alabama — in Camden, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and other places — Andrew’s brother Jimmy supplies lumber taken out of Lowndes County buildings he demolishes for the churches, birdhouses and other woodworking projects.

But McCall says crafting is not his first calling.

“More than anything I enjoy worshiping the Lord because He is the one who gave me the gift,” McCall said. “Everything I do, I give Him the praise for it.”

Hayneville natives Sandy and Leanne Harrell, along with their sons Drew and Stuart, also supply goods for sale at Priester’s, delivering honey from a third-generation beekeeping operation started by Sandy’s grandfather Walter Elbert Harrell.

“When Sandy was growing up, bees were a full-time business,” Leanne said. “The family’s main business was shipping bees all over the world.”

Mite infestations took a toll on the operation and the Harrell’s diversified into cattle and hardware and eventually owning and operating the QV convenience store in the heart of Hayneville.

The Harrells no longer ship live bees on a large scale, but Sandy, who suffers from leukemia, devotes much of his time to working the bees and harvesting their honey.

“This is something he grew up doing,” Leanne said. “It’s work, but it’s happy work which he enjoys.”

The family began selling honey to Priester’s around 30 years ago, but paused the partnership when the sale of live bees depleted the hive too much to harvest honey.

Now that the family no longer sells bees, they produce honey in greater volumes, Leanne said, and resumed selling to Priester’s about 10 years ago.

“After Sandy developed leukemia, he really started [harvesting honey,]” Leanne said.

The Harrells have around 150 hives, which they relocate to harvest clover fields or Chinese Tallow Trees commonly known as popcorn trees, depending upon the season.

Harrell Honey is available at Priester’s and is also sold at various locations in Prattville, at Filet and Vine in Montgomery, and at Ingram’s Garden Center in Millbrook.