The Peanut Factory’s little white trailer with wood panel backing provides shelter to numerous styles of out of date equipment. Take its 85-year-old roasters, for instance. According to Skillman, the A.J. Deer Company that created those machines has been out of business since 1929, so Skillman keeps an extra roaster on hand to use for spare parts.
The roasters, like the booth’s other aged equipment—a 1940s scale and 1950s manual cash register—are beautiful. Part rust and part polished metal, they are full of interesting details, including an embossed vegetal pattern across their front, which makes them nothing if not eye-catching. And it’s exactly that which Skillman’s father, Don Skillman, was going for when he started his business in the late 1960s. “He had the foresight that he needed something that stood out,” says Butch Skillman of his father. Before starting his own booth, Don Skillman worked for numerous other fair vendors who sold popular products like hot dogs from similar looking stands. Peanuts roasted on the spot, he believed, would set him apart, and they definitely do.
The machines, which ping peanuts into large metal bins, are a sight to see and hear when in operation. And the products themselves are cheap and fairly healthy compared to many fried fair alternatives. A 5-ounce bag is $1.50, and a 12-ounce bag just $3. Butch Skillman also points out that roasting the nuts on site allow him to oversee the quality of the food that he sells. “It’s easy to pick out any product that is questionable.”