Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Visit to Harry & David

All my life I've driven up and down I-5. First it was family vacations when we would return from Saudi Arabia. We would often enter in Los Angeles and then do family activities as we drove back to Oregon to visit my aunt and cousin. Later I did the drive in the 80s when I would travel from college to Palm Springs for spring break. My years were the years that closed Palm Springs forever for spring breakers. Now I do the drive to visit my dad. He retired in Salem and so it's an 8 hour drive to and from. 

So it's pretty amazing that in all that time I never stopped in Medford to go to visit Harry & David. I must admit I've never really bought from Harry & David since it was always a bit on the pricey side for me and I live in the Sacramento valley where we have all the produce I could ever want. My tightwad ways. It was quite by accident that I stumbled on their headquarters this trip. I was stopping in Medford for lunch and drove right by their main store. 

Harry & David are brothers that took over their father's farm after his death in 1914. They took their agricultural expertise to expand the business with their famous Royal Riviera pears. The business took a hit, understandably, during the depression. It was some creative and inspired marketing that made the brothers venture into the mail order business. In 1934 they took boxes of their pears to influential businessmen in San Francisco and New York. The pears sold themselves and the mail order business was born. Since then the company has increased their product lines to include all sorts of fruits, chocolates, snacks, and baked goods. 

freshly dipped pears
There are factory tours offered several times each weekday. Since I was there on a Wednesday and not in a great hurry, I signed up for the 12:30 tour. The tours cost $5, but then they give you a coupon for $5 off your purchases later. I had already shopped and had used their Foursquare check-in coupon of 10% off.


The crunch time for Harry & David is from about mid September to the beginning of December. The factory is exploding with bustling business. I was mid December and the plant was pretty quiet. The last of the pears were being packaged and some gift baskets were being assembled.

Here you see the variety of cheesecakes being split apart. They are assembling the variety packs with a quarter of each cheesecake packaged together.

Moose Munch mixer
Their biggest product is the Moose Munch. They have about 20 flavor variations. I like the dark chocolate with macadamia and coconut macaroon. The popcorn they use is of two varieties. I didn't realize that each variety pops differently. One pops in a mushroom shape and the other in a butterfly shape, which they like to hold more caramel.

I finished the tour and soon went on my way with a few purchases. I guess I'll be stopping in Medford more often now that I've discovered the treasure hidden slightly off the freeway.

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