By Kim Steele
Killeen Daily Herald
Come Monday, Tombaugh family members will once again turn on the lights in their big, professional kitchen at Lampasas Holiday Farms and start mixing up large, luscious batches of fudge, divinity, pralines and peanut brittle.
The 3,500-square-foot kitchen has been silent for several months while most of the family - Don Tombaugh and adult sons, John and Dave Tombaugh - was out on the road selling their homemade wares at weekend candy shows. Don's wife, Jean Tombaugh, stays home to answer the phone during that time.
But production will begin in earnest this week as the family gears up for the rush of holiday-related online sales of their tasty concoctions. Like many speciality businesses, the holiday season sparks customer demand for gifts ideas with a regional flavor, for which Texas is well known.
In Lampasas, professional mixing machines will whir as Dave Tombaugh prepares about 30 pounds of divinity - a creamy, Southern delicacy made from sugar and egg whites - at a time. Nearby, John and Don Tombaugh will create 30 pounds of fudge at a time. The three men will mix 75 pounds of pralines and peanut brittle each in a large copper kettle. The candy will be poured into trays and placed in another part of the kitchen to cool and harden.
Jean Tombaugh said the family annually produces about 4,500 pounds of divinity, 9,700 pounds of fudge, 700 pounds of pralines and 950 pounds of peanut brittle. Other than weekend shows, all sales come through the company's website, mostly from October through the end of the year.
"More and more people are shopping online now," said John Tombaugh. "A few years ago, people wouldn't use the Internet to shop, and now they'd rather do that than go to the mall and deal with the people. We get a lot of repeat online customers - 99 percent of those who buy online love it."
In Salado, Jon Moore and his wife, Dottie Moore, who own Salado Creek Winery and Vineyard, also have seen their business grow with the addition of online shopping and shipping. Since they began selling baskets online in October, the couple has prepared about 40 for shipment.
"People are looking for something handcrafted and native to Texas to send out at Christmas," said Jon Moore. "We have a large transient military population here, and they think it's neat to buy one of our baskets and send it back to their families. So we've been really busy so far."
Because of federal and state laws, Texas winegrowers are only allowed to ship their product within the state. Jon Moore said online customers buying for Texans can leave the shipping to him, but those sending farther away must pick up their shipment-ready basket and mail it. He also offers local delivery.
While the Tombaugh family makes candy all year, production steps up in July. If they don't make enough, the candy runs out by the last show on the first weekend in December. This year, that's exactly what happened, and why they need to make more.
"This time of year, with Christmas coming, the online orders really increase," said John Tombaugh. "It starts as a trickle and builds up to a flood, and by the first week of December, we're really busy. We ship to every state in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, and also to Iraq."
The Lampasas business, which was started by Don Tombaugh in 1988 and has grown each year, offers gift tins and slabs of divinity, chewy pralines, fudge in nine flavors and peanut brittle.
At Salado Creek, which opened in December 2009, the Moores wines include chardonnay, cabernet Franc, zinfandel, chocolate Mandarin orange port, merlot, mead and cabernet sauvignon. The winery also has beef jerky, summer sausage and cheeses - cheddar, swiss or hot, which comes from Butler Smokehouse in Stephenville.
Jon Moore said he believes the online business will turn hectic this month, since the majority of customers buying gift baskets will make their purchases and send them when they come in for the Christmas Stroll.
The event takes place the first two weekends in December at the winery.
"I sure hope we're going to stay busy for Christmas," said Jon Moore. "It's tough to say right now, with this being the first year for our gift baskets. We're doing good now and they're popular. I'm happy with the response. We're just going to keep doing what we're doing now so we stay busy."
Contact Kim Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org or (255) 501-7567.
Lampasas Holiday Farms
Phone: (512) 556-6952 or (512) 556-2476
Fax: (512) 556-0153
The company offers gift tins and slabs of divinity, ranging in price from $14.95 to $48, as well as individual boxes and slabs of chewy pralines priced from $19.95 to $35. Fudge prices range from $14.95 to $55 for nine flavors.
Peanut brittle comes in two prices, $15.95 for a 1-pound container and $19.95 for a 1-pound gift tin.
The company also offers three gift baskets containing a variety of edible items - the Taste of Texas Basket sells for $96.95, the Sweet Lovers Basket is $61.95 and the Holiday Farms Texas Basket costs $59.95.
Salado Creek Winery and Vineyard
227 N. Main St., Salado
Phone: (254) 947-9000
The winery offers a port gift basket for $49.95, a large gift basket for $29.95 and custom gift baskets for varying prices, based on what they contain. Each basket is handwoven in the shape of Texas and contains wine, a logo glass and either jerky, summer sausage or cheeses.