Thib’s Pecan House: A holiday tradition for SW La. families

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Pawnee pecan is perfect for baking — not too oily and not too dry. Tandi Thibodeaux Henry should know. She’s been selling it, cracking it and baking with this popular “paper shell” variety since she could see over the top of the kitchen counter.

Henry, along with siblings Wendy Manuel, Derrick, Parish, Ryan and Tara Smith, are the children of the late Philip and Jill Scovill Thibodeax. They started the business that would become Thib’s Pecan House in 1976. It’s more than a place to find complimentary hot apple cider and fresh-brewed Acadiana Roasters coffee, a bite of something sweet, pecans for giving or baking, and holiday gifts. It’s a local holiday tradition.

“It started with just selling pecans out of the orchard,” Henry said. “We all picked them up and sold them in the shell or cracked them in our garage. My grandfather,

Harold, did all the cracking. My father pipelined. As demand increased, dad got a commercial pecan cracker and people would bring their own pecans to be cracked. Mom started making candy. She put her glazed or roasted pecans in mason jars using a recipe a customer shared. Later she added pecan brittle and patties.”

The business grew and eventually Jill Thibodeaux needed a little help in her kitchen. Now Henry sees second and even third generations making great memories at Thib’s.

“For years, the business was next to the old homeplace,” Henry said. “For decades people would just stop by whether it was business hours or not. Mom and dad didn’t mind. They enjoyed the company.”

In 2007, the Thibodeauxs decided to retire. That’s when Henry’s brother Ryan, who now helps her with the operation, decided it would be best to move the business down the road from Ragley to Longville. Of utmost importance, was continuing the tradition established by their parents and meeting expectations of visitors, new and returning.

There is a porch and seating at 12132 U.S. 171. But it is probably the hospitality there that would make Phil and Jill most proud.

“Just yesterday, a lady came in for cider and asked if she could put a chair in the middle of the shop and talk,” Henry said. “So, we found her a chair. We love to visit and talk.”

Today, the kitchen has five people to keep up with the baking, roasting and candy making. There is fudge, fruitcake in December, brittle, pies, pralines, patties, divinity and roasted pecans. Henry is the fudge expert. She inherited the job from her sister-in-law, Mena Thibodeaux.

“She has been extremely involved in the pecan house for the past 25 years,” Henry said.

When the Thibodeauxs sold their first bag of pecans, the orchard on the old home place had 136 trees likely planted in the 1930s, because of the tree size and possibly by the Lyles family who may have homesteaded the 40-plus acres. It was a stunning piece of property.

Philip Thibodeux planted Pawnee pecan trees in the 1980s, but those are nowhere near the size of the original trees. Hurricanes Rita and Laura destroyed all but 40 of the original 136 in 2005 and 2020.

“We can’t grow enough to meet the demand here, but we only source Pawnee,” Henry said. “We can get our hands on them in September. It’s a larger, paper shell that’s easy to crack and shell. It’s not too oily and not too dry, perfect for cracking and snaking and perfect for baking because the oil content is ideal.”