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Farmer's sweet addition
Kevin Deal, partner now cooking up pralines
W BIZ PRALINES 03
Wes Oglesby, left, and Alicia Ellerbee package up pralines for Deep South Concessions. The family business set up operations for the holidays after converting office space on Hwy 67 into a production facility. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

      What appears to be an unlikely partnership may result in some very sweet business success. Local farmer Kevin Deal recently joined forces with event planner and culinary artist Kristy Hickmott to form Deep South Concessions.
      Founded just a few weeks ago in a building Deal bought as part of a larger land deal on Highway 67 South, the company is producing peanut pralines as fast as the facility will allow.
      "We have 12 employees that are working all day, five days a week making and packaging our peanut pralines," Deal said. "It is all that we can do to keep up with the demand at this point."
      Praline flavors that Deep South is producing include peanut butter, chocolate and peanut butter, as well as a white chocolate and peppermint "bark" peanut praline.`
      Developed in New Orleans in the early 19th century, the American praline is typically thought to be a cookie-size confection made of butter, brown sugar, and pecans. Deal said he tasted Hickmott's homemade praline recipe several months ago and couldn't believe how good it was.
      "We began talking about starting up a business, because I knew this praline recipe would sell," he said. "I told Kristy that since I was a farmer from Georgia, it had to have peanuts in it, instead of the traditional pecans. That is how our product is a little different from others."
       Hickmott has been working for the last seven years in Athens.
      "I have made a lot of contacts through event planning and catering," she said. "Those contacts have been very helpful. We have established a relationship with the University of Georgia, and some of the other universities in the southeast. I think we are off to a good start."
       Several local companies have also bought the pralines to give to their customers as Christmas presents. While Hickmott spends most of her time on the road taking orders for the product, Deal remains in Bulloch County, farming and overseeing the concessions company.
       "Kristy's mother is working in the kitchen, so that has been very good and helpful, particularly in assuring that the recipe is consistently the same," he said. "At this point, I am burning the candle at both ends, but the business is doing well, and that's a good thing."
       Deal and Hickmott said they are planning on expanding the business after the Christmas rush is over.
       "If everything continues to go well, our Statesboro operation will serve as a test kitchen for different pralines, as well as an ongoing operation baking cakes and other deserts," Hickmott said. "We will probably mass produce the pralines in a larger facility at some point, but right now, we are handling the production right here."
       Deal said if anyone wants to buy some pralines, they are being sold for $12.95 a pound.
      "We will sell you however much you want to buy," he said. "Just give us a call. I can't tell you how many samples we have given out over the last several weeks, and as soon as somebody tries one, they want to buy a box. They really are that good."
       If you would like to contact Deal or Hickmott, the office number for Deep South is (912) 839-2470, and the email is sales@deepsouthconcessions.com. The company's website is currently under construction.