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Wells city administrator bringing his business to town

By Staff | Jan 6, 2019

One giant mascot is starting a turf war with the Jolly Green Giant.

Not really. It’s actually Pelican Rapids, Minnesota’s giant pelican that is moving to town. Well, kind of.

CJ and Bridgette Holl, of Wells, are bringing their prolific Pelican Pete’s Pistachios to Faribault County.

Pelican Pete’s uniquely smoked pistachios are coming to Wells, and technically, they are already here.

Adopting the same familiar pelican named Pete from their previous home before moving to Wells as CJ took the position of city administrator and Bridgette pursued her career at the USC school as a Spanish teacher the duo, along with their two daughters, Lily and Daisy, have decided to bring this unique snack to Southern Minnesota.

“As a licensed Minnesota Department of Agriculture manufacturer, we have to use a commercial kitchen,” says Holl. “We are currently using the Legion in Wells during their off hours, which are usually evenings and weekends, to produce the pistachios.”

Holl says the agreement with the Legion works fine for what they are doing now, however, Pelican Pete’s Pistachios can easily outsell their production capability, so they have held back on marketing.

“Our longer-term plan would be to have our own facility and larger equipment,” says Holl. “As it stands, everything we do is by hand. Even our packaging is done by hand.”

Holl says he would also like a large, commercial smoker, which is the next size up from what they currently use. That change in size could easily quadruple Pelican Pete’s Pistachio’s capacity.

While most pistachios can have smoke flavor added, the Holl squad skips that flavor junk all together and actually smoke their pistachios in a small commercial-grade smoker, just like smoking ribs and brisket.

Holl says he enjoys smoking ribs, brisket, and even chicken wings, as the Wells area found out during the Our Town USA Chicken Wing Cook Off this past summer. Holl takes his knowledge of meats and packs it into a powerful little pistachio.

“We make one flavor and do it well,” says the master smoker. “There is opportunity to develop other flavors and is something we have played with but for now, we have great products and nearly unlimited opportunity to sell as is.”

The result is a unique, deep, rich smoked pistachio that Holl believes is unlike anything else made commercially. And the United States is taking note. Holl says the orders that come from their website are from everywhere.

“We got orders from all over the country Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alabama, Alaska, Florida, New Jersey,” says Holl. The local market has taken notice as well with the Wells Legion, the Steel Wheel in Winnebago, the Bend in the Road in Manchester, and Happy Times Resort in Lake Mills, Iowa, have all become regular customers of the smoked ‘stachios.

Holl has much experience in his past with the food industry after owning eight Subway restaurants in Minnesota and South Dakota for the past 13 years.

“Being in the restaurant business and running the retail side of things was very taxing,” says Holl. “We wanted to do something different, so we moved here and got jobs with the city and the school district.”

Holl?buys California pistachios and smokes 40 or more pounds at a time, depending on how many orders he receives. He spreads the unshelled nuts on a tray, coats them in a delectable top-secret five-ingredient seasoning and smokes them nice and slow at 225 degrees.

The pistachios then cool and are put into bags, labeled, and shipped out. Everything is done by hand by the Holl family.

“We’ve been making pistachios professionally for about two years,” says Holl. “Although I have made them for many years. I made them as a snack while I was experimenting with other barbeque things. Friends and family started bringing me bags to fill up for them and requested I start selling them. So we did. We now have a distributor that has them in seven states.”

A three-ounce bag of pistachios, a three-ounce three-pack, and a 20-bag case are all just examples of how you can get your fix of pistachios on pelicanpetespistachios.com.

Holl says he covers the barbeque expertise in the business as he developed the recipe for the pistachios. He says he has four smokers and counting. Bridgette Holl decided that the family should share their unique product online and hopes to keep ahead of CJ in the accounting department.

Together, they smoke and package the sweet and spicy pistachios, while their daughters help with labeling (which still uses the popular Pelican named Pete from Pelican Rapids) and shipping, and the Holls say even their dogs walk back and forth to the post office as they ship their orders to their customers.

Though Faribault County residents may not know Pelican Rapids very well, you can bet they will get to know their beloved mascot a lot better after the Holl family brings Pelican Pete and his pistachios to the land of the Jolly Green Giant.