Oct 26, 2023
Jake Renfroe, Southeast pecan leader, dies

John W. “Jake” Renfroe, Jr., has died. Renfroe, 91, of the J.W. Renfroe Pecan Co., died at his home in Pensacola, Florida, on Oct. 21.

John Renfroe

Renfroe Pecan is a third generation family-owned business that has become a Pensacola and national staple.

A Memorial Service is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 28 at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3400 Bayou Blvd, Pensacola, FL, 32503, followed by a reception. Those unable to attend can view a livestream of the service here.

Born Dec. 19, 1931, Renfroe spent his childhood in Troy, Alabama, where he was captain of his high school football team. After high school in 1949, he enlisted in the Army National Guard and was stationed at Fort Rucker. He met his wife Lillian on a blind date, whom he married after his service. Renfroe earned an accounting degree from the University of Alabama. He worked at a fiber plant in Pensacola and also Goodyear Tire Co. before opening Renfroe Tire Service, a successful Pensacola business in the 1960s and 1970s.

His father, J.W., Sr, had been purchasing pecans in Troy from growers throughout the Southeast since the 1930s. The company grew to be one of the largest accumulators of in-shell pecans which it supplied to commercial pecan shellers and food processors throughout the U.S., according to an obituary.

Growing up in his father’s business, Renfroe during the mid-1950s helped his father by buying pecans from northwest Florida and south Alabama growers, storing them in the back of his tire store.

As pecan production and growing conditions were favorable in north Florida and the coastal counties of south Alabama, Renfroe in the late 1950s moved his family to Pensacola to open a pecan buying facility.

In the mid-1970s, the Renfroe family built a pecan shelling and processing plant adjacent to a buying warehouse and gift shop. Jake’s wife oversaw the operation which added mail order and shelled pecans for fundraising organizations to the business.

Renfroe PecanWhen his father died in the early 1970s, Renfroe sold the tire company and devoted all his time to the pecan business.

In the early days, Renfroe Pecan was wholesale only, later expanded to retail and mail order sales in through two Pensacola retail stores, providing many varieties of pecans and nuts to customers around the country.

Renfroe was an active member of many pecan and tree nut industry trade organizations.

“As a business owner, Jake appreciated every person he saw; from the neighborhood teen selling ten pounds of pecans, to a farmer with ten-thousand pounds, he treated each person with the same dignity and respect,” according to the obituary.

Less than two months from turning 92 years of age, Renfroe is survived by his wife of 70 years, daughter Dee Renfroe, and sons Jake III (Jane), and Ben (Tammy), eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren as well as two sisters and a brother. Renfroe was predeceased by his parents, two sisters and a brother.

Ben, Tammy, Dee, Jake and J.W. Renfroe, Jr., and Geoff Hamil are involved in the company’s retail stores and operations. Renfroe remains one of the largest in-shell pecan accumulators and brokers, according to the company’s website.

Jake was active in many community boards, including the Pensacola Tourism Council, the Florida Tourism Board, the Pensacola Historical Society and the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce.

In lieu of flowers, the family wishes donations be made to United Ministries united-ministries.com or to the charities of the givers’ choice.

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