Team Hall & Nass loves a good road trip. Granted, many road trips in our past have been those good ol’ fashioned crossing the country in a bit of a hurry types of drives, blasting from checkpoint to checkpoint, stopping only long enough to grab a route card or to gas and go! However, some road trips are more about the journey than racing toward the destination. And sometimes, it’s those destinations along the way that are what the journey is all about. Taking time to stop and enjoy the many sights, sounds and oddities along the way. Searching for good food, great people, and some true old fashioned roadside Americana. Yep, this story is that kind of ride.
While reading an issue of Hot Rod Magazine this past summer, we perused their list of Top 57 Gearhead Destinations. One of the most unique roadside attractions listed was a pecan pie vending machine. The article stated: “In Cedar Creek, Texas, you can buy an entire pecan pie from a vending machine. An entire pie. From a vending machine!”
Having inquisitive minds, once we learned of this feat of engineering foodie goodness, we had questions. How does one vend pecan pies from a vending machine? Do you simply enter coins, push a button and watch as an entire pie falls out of a slot? How could it remain cold? How fresh could it really be? It didn’t take long before we decided that a road trip deep into the heart of Texas must be made in our quest for answers and to quench our sudden urge for sticky sweet pecan pie.
We saddled up an appropriately Texas-sized vehicle for our trek across the Lone Star State in the latest Cowboy Cadillac, a 2013 Ford F-350 Platinum Super Duty, and set off on a journey that took us across the vast, flat prairies, slightly beyond the boundaries of Texas Hill Country. Roughly 15 miles east of Austin on Texas Highway 71, we found what could well be one of the coolest things ever placed in a coin operated dispenser.
It may be easy to drive through Cedar Creek, Texas without knowing you’ve passed it, but there is no missing where the Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company is located. There is a giant digital sign on the westbound side of Hwy. 71 that scrolls PECANS, PECAN PIE, etc. that could make those truck stop signs on the Interstates feel a bit inferior. But on the off chance you don’t look a mile into the sky and see the giant digital welcome, you may drive off the highway in startled amazement when you are greeted by the sight of Ms. Pearl, the world’s largest squirrel! Lest you think we are kidding about this, we parked the F-350 next to Ms. Pearl to give you an idea of just how big the squirrels are in Texas. This ought to give you an idea of how many acres of pecans exist on the Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company property.
After having fun posing with Ms. Pearl, we walked upon the giant front porch of the store. Just as our fellow gearheads at Hot Rod had promised, there it was! Behold – A vending machine that dispenses entire pecan pies! That’s right, folks! An entire pie. From a vending machine!
Of course, we filmed a video. When don’t we nowadays? When we finally get around to posting it, we’ll add the link to this article. Until then, you’ll have to read on to find out how this works.
We entered the store and visited with the proprietors. After we told them why we were there, a long discussion ensued, and we soon discovered many fascinating things about the family. The 20,000 tree pecan farm that stretches out for miles (everything is big in Texas) behind the store belonged to Hal and Lisa Berdoll for 33 years. The Berdolls’ daughter Jennifer and her husband Jared own and operate the Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company. The original gift shop was a garage where Hal and Lisa sold their fresh pecans to the public. Over the years, as demand continued to grow, they branched out into offering all sorts of pecan treats, candies and, of course, pies. When their daughter and son in law took over operation of the store, they built a larger facility, including an on premise processing and production plant. While the family farm was recently sold so Hal and Lisa could retire, their daughter continues to own and operate the store, which still sells fresh pecans direct from the farm.
As a family business, the Berdolls often found it difficult to close their store at the end of the day, as there was always someone pulling into the lot after closing time looking for pecan pies, and they didn’t like turning their customers away. After years of missing dinner due to staying open late to accommodate those last minute sales, their daughter came up with an idea. Why not sell their pecan treats from a vending machine? What started out as a novel idea has turned into an impressive after hours profit center. Not only can you buy bags of pecan treats in various varieties and flavors, you can also buy an entire fresh pecan pie. And according to those in the store, they sell a lot of pies through the machine. So many that they have to restock it daily, and often multiple times a day.
Armed with this information, and a GoPro, we proceeded back outside to the vending machine. We placed our $20 bill in the slot, selected the appropriate product number, and then watched as something magical happened. Through the looking glass, an entire pecan pie began to move forward, then dropped down into the retrieval area, followed by our .50 cents into the change cup. It was cold, it was wrapped in cellophane, and it was a thing of beauty! That’s right, folks. We bought an entire fresh pecan pie from a vending machine An entire pie. From a vending machine! What more could you ask for?
Afterward, we attacked the pie with great vim and vigor. Forks flew, bites chewed, and the sweet taste of pecans in sticky, gooey goodness ensued. The verdict? It was one of the best pecan pies we’ve ever tasted! Even better, it came from a vending machine. Don’t you love classic roadside Americana? We certainly do!
To experience pecan pie vending bliss for yourself, visit the Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company on Hwy. 71 in Cedar Creek, Texas, and don’t forget to bring a fork! If you cannot make it down to Texas, but you’d like to order one of their delectable pecan treats online, visit http://www.berdollpecanfarm.com. God Bless Texas!