Published September 27th, 2011

Driving along Route 1 in Belfast, it’s hard to miss Perry’s Nut House. A roadside attraction and Midcoast institution for more than 80 years, it beckons tourists with giant painted sculptures, novelty items, legendary fudge and, as the name suggests, a variety of shelled nuts. You’ll know you’ve got the right place, if there was any doubt, when you’re greeted by the huge feet and hairy knuckles of Ape-raham, a large mounted gorilla stationed at the front door.

I.L. Perry opened his doors in 1927, selling pecans and assorted nuts to folks Down East. He later moved the shop to a sea captain’s house, its present location, gaining a reputation for both nuts from around the world and the curiosities Perry collected along his travels. Among the pieces on display were stuffed alligators, trick mirrors and a water buffalo shot by Teddy Roosevelt.

After Perry died in 1940, a young entrepreneur took over the shop, adding a stuffed albatross, the African gorilla and other novelties to the collection. Several ownership changes followed, and many of the novelty pieces were later auctioned off. But in 2004, the Nut House’s current owners revamped the store, bringing back many of the signature items, from an alligator hide to a 30-foot python skin.

Today, you’ll find rows of bins with shelled nuts, a variety of Maine-made products and Perry’s award-winning fudge, in flavors including orange cream and pumpkin pie. The staff’s not shy with the free samples, either.

If you’re not yet convinced to give Perry’s a try, just consult their “Top 10 reasons to visit us at Perry’s Nut House” list. How about “You need fudge, badly” or “You’ve never seen a mummy outside of Egypt”?