Going Local with the Naked Nut
Ahhhh Nuts!February 2015
By Jordan Venema
Photo by Ryan Krauter
Sheridyn Blain has become a nut aficionado, through farming, exporting and selling them. She can probably also shell out every nut pun in the book. “Especially the ones regarding my husband’s nuts,” she laughs. “I’m selling them for a living.” Walnuts and pecans from Blain Farms, she means, which she sells at her shop, The Naked Nut.
Blain’s love for nuts began when she met her husband, Brody. He took her to an orchard where she ate a pecan freshly fallen from a tree. It was like a new culinary experience; she’d never tasted a nut so delicious. “A raw, naked nut,” she explains, “when it’s fresh, is beautiful.”
The Blains worked well together. She helped during harvest, made pallet tags, “and before long, we were both exporting,” traveling together to Hong Kong, working 70-hour weeks, she explains. “But we didn’t have children,” so it worked.
Then, Blain got pregnant. Aware she could no longer travel or work 70-hour weeks, the Blains planned to open a shop. “We decided that a small little country store in front of our farming office would be great,” says Blain. And in 2010, at eight months pregnant, Blain opened The Naked Nut.
Her idea was to sell nuts grown by Blain Farms and other local growers. “We started with, oh, I don’t know, maybe 20 or 30 products,” says Blain. Soon thereafter, Blain, a food enthusiast, began trying other locally grown products. “I would try foods and thought, ‘Oh, that’s really good!’ Well, of course I had to carry that, too.” Since its opening in 2010, The Naked Nut went from selling 20-odd products to roughly 1,500 products. Blain accounts for the growth simply: “If I like it and if it’s locally or California produced, I’m going to carry it.”
Now The Naked Nut sells much more than raw, naked nuts, though it has plenty of those, too — nuts and seeds beginning with nearly every letter of the alphabet. They sell elaborate gift baskets and culinary specialty items, like sauces, jams and baking mixes. There are local candies and a whole section of dried fruits, “95 percent of which is California if not San Joaquin grown,” says Blain. “And we sell every kind of olive and nut oil that you can think of,” as well as honeys and wines. “I’ve tried every single thing in this store,” says Blain, vouching for her products, “and I especially like that part of the job when it comes to my wine selection.”
The beauty of The Naked Nut, besides the quality of its goods, is that it reflects Blain herself. “It’s totally a reflection of what I’m enthusiastic about. It’s funny because people come in and ask for licorice, but I don’t like it and I won’t carry it,” she laughs. That’s not bad business; it means every single product in the shop truly has her stamp of approval. A customer will never get a false answer from Blain.
Blain’s personal investment could be taken for granted, since some business owners don’t personally use, or love, the goods they sell. You might expect a person who lives, farms, breathes and eats nuts to tire of them, but “no, no,” Blain insists. “No, I don’t.” Her love isn’t limited to nuts, either. She loves her customers as though they’re friends, family, and “I insisted that it be that way from the start,” she says. “The beauty of having a small business is that you become emotionally connected to the people across the counter.”
Blain immediately starts talking about Hank. “He must be in his 80s if he’s a day,” she says. “He comes in because he likes to send nuts to his high school girlfriend back east.” Every other week or so, Blain greets him, “Heeeey, Hank’s here. How you doing, Mr. Harvey?” For Blain, Hank is as much an uncle as a customer, and she cherishes those connections. It’s hard to imagine that there’s a customer too hard for Blain to crack.
No order is too large at The Naked Nut. “We have people come this time of year and buy 30 pounds of almonds, and we say, ‘Alright, where’s your truck?’” Blain Farms can export tons upon tons of walnuts, as well as sell a pound. “In the same 2,000 square-foot office, we have orders coming in for 20 containers of walnuts, and pass through this little, thin hallway to Naked Nut, and we have Hank the octogenarian ordering a half-pound of nuts to send to his high school sweetheart.” There’s really no nut too large, too small. Whether you want an almond or a ton, expect to be greeted warmly. Because at The Naked Nut, says Blain, “we give the same level of love and customer service” — no matter the nut.
The Naked Nut
1240 E. Caldwell Ave., Visalia • (559) 697-6561
Monday – Friday: 9 am – 6 pm; Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm
41969 Highway 41, Oakhurst • (559) 641-2031
Open Daily: 11 am – 7 pm