We opened with the simple idea that we can do it better.
The history of Apple Lane is really very simple. In December 1995, I was standing in a long, slow-moving line at the Honey Baked Ham Store™ in Huntsville, Alabama picking up my Christmas ham. When I looked around, I recognized many of the people in line from my hometown of Decatur. It dawned on me that my friends and I were driving 45 minutes and then standing in line for another 45 minutes – I just knew that we could do it better.
After the holidays, I called Honey Baked Ham and asked about purchasing a franchise for Decatur. They told me that they didn’t franchise and that Decatur was not a large enough market for a Honey Baked Ham Store™. I took a look at other companies who did offer a franchise, but between the up-front licensing fees and the recurring royalties, it was pretty obvious that I was going to take all the risk, do all the work, and give someone else half the profits. This didn’t sound like a great business plan, so I shelved the idea of a franchise and kept the idea that we could do it better.
In August of 1997, I had the good fortune to meet a gentleman by the name of Don Bonano, who owned Ham Supreme Shops in Detroit. I visited Don to take a look at his operation and to try his ham. During our visit, I explained my reservations about a franchise and told him I was simply looking for someone that would show me how to prepare the hams and then let me go on my way. He gladly offered to do this for $10,000.00. I replied, “I don’t think I can sell that much ham! I’ll give you $5,000.00.” Don agreed, and on December 12, 1997, Apple Lane opened at the original location on Highway 20 in Decatur, selling spiral-sliced honey-glazed hams.
We slow-smoke our hams over hardwood for at least 24 hours to seal in the flavor. Each day, the hams are spiral-sliced and fire-glazed with honey and spices right here in the store. Our menu has grown since 1997 to include our signature overstuffed sandwiches, made from scratch pies, and box lunches for our corporate customers. But we still have the same idea – we can do it better.
Some places may claim they have the world’s best ham. In the Tennessee Valley, we know better. Come by Apple Lane and taste the difference.
Donnie L. Lane