Story by Dianne Edwards
Mary York Shermer owns a secret-York Family Catering. Nestled in her small kitchen at 112 South Commerce in Downtown Russellville, this quiet and unassuming Southern lady talks about her business while preparing for a corporate gathering only a few hours away.
The York family cleared land for an orchard along the Red River, near the Texarkana, Arkansas, and Texarkana, Texas, borders in 1959. They left only the American native pecan trees – Carya illinoensis — famous for their rich flavor. These pecans are the wild cousins of the “paper shell” pecan, which produces a larger nut, but doesn’t compare with the delightful taste of native pecans, say family members.
Many of the native pecan trees in the York’s orchard are more than 100 feet tall and measure 31⁄2 feet in trunk diameter, which indicates they are more than 350 years old.
The York Family began using their pecans to flavor Southern recipes for family and friends. They soon developed a line of Sweet and Savory Coated Pecans in 1987, which they marketed through the Dallas Market Center. Their reputation soon grew far beyond the Red River.
Mary and her staff delight in catering the perfect special event, such as weddings, bridal teas, anniversaries and corporate gatherings.
“We call it ‘customized catering,” says Mary. She will meet with the host or hostess and design a menu to their specifications. They also welcome and encourage the general public to drop in and have lunch at their downtown Russellville location.
Though her family’s pecan business is well-known, the news of Mary’s local reputation has spread mostly by “word-of- mouth.” Her regular customers know they can dine in or stop by and pick up a meal- to-go on their way home from work.
Ready-to-go casseroles are available each day and range in size from two to three servings up to family-sized portions. The meal includes a salad and rolls. York keeps a number of dishes prepared each day, but it’s suggested that one call in advance for specific choices.
Selections may include Chicken Spaghetti, Chicken Enchiladas, Lasagna, Spinach Lasagna, Beef Enchiladas, Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya, Grilled and Parmesan Chicken. If one is still not tempted, there’s Grilled Chicken Breasts or Loaded Chicken Breasts with Cheddar and Fresh Sautéed Mushrooms in a sour cream and sherry sauce.
“We want to make our customers look good,” emphasizes Mary. “So we offer our casseroles and desserts in your dishes or ours.”
Gift Baskets featuring York Pecans and York’s Herbed Crackers are a popular item year round, but especially so around the holidays, said Mary.
York Family Catering also employs Shannon Dotson, who has assisted Mary with the day-to-day operations for the past eleven years. Also assisting with preparation is Pam Masters. Marla Crowley has assisted Mary as a special event server for several years.
Located on a side street across from the Pope County Courthouse, the setting is quaint but adequate for small groups or a meal with friends. York Family Catering is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (though Mary delivers her specialties to Little Rock each Wednesday.)
For more information, to arrange a catering meal or for a list of available ready- to-go casseroles, call (479) 968-5258.