Early’s Honey Stand began sharing Southern food and fare with the world in 1925, when founder Erskine Early’s parents set up a roadside stand along Highway 31 in Spring Hill, Tenn. Early’s father was a beekeeper, and the stand was an easy way to sell honey to travelers on their way to and from Florida.
Through the years, the retail business became quite the tourist destination, selling authentic Southern products such as rich golden honey, sweet sorghum, slow-smoked sausage and country hams.
When the construction of Interstate 65 rerouted thousands of drivers from the stand, word spread far and wide about the “Hill Country” treats from the little town south of Nashville. Erskine’s mail-order business boomed.
In a 1982 interview, Early recalled getting letters requesting his products: “We’d get people writing saying, ‘Can you send me a jar of that honey?’ So we’d ship to them—eventually.”
The business is still family-owned, as well. Father-and-son duo Curt and Curtis Gibbs of Franklin, Tenn., purchased the business in 2011, after Erskine Early passed away.
Early’s Honey Stand is the oldest mail-order service in the South, with two locations in Tennessee. Its newest location in historic Franklin is housed in a small brick building that served as Dr. Daniel McPhail’s office in the early 1800s. The store features a cooler filled with country hams and sausage, along with shelves stacked with jars of honey, sorghum, jams, Hoppin’ John kits (black-eyed peas, rice and spices) and Goo Goo Cluster candy bars.
“We’ve stayed true to our roots, only offering authentic native products and the best-quality food,” Curtis Gibbs said. “Our meats are smoked and cured through natural methods that have been used for hundreds of years, and we never cook, clarify or filter any of our honey. We’re trying to help you eat the way your great-grandmother did.”