Jackson — Yum! Nandy’s Candy is in full swing making handmade chocolates of every description. Owner Nancy King says the shop’s busiest time is from September until the Easter bunny hops, seeing an increase in sales when the temperature gets cooler.
She began the business in October 1980 when her youngest child started school and after helping her husband, Bill King, with his pest control company for several years. “I needed to have my own business. I had been used to being in charge,” she said. “I knew bugs and candy and decided I wanted to make candy.”
King worked in a candy-making business through high school and college but had never made candy as a happy homemaker. She went to Texas for additional training in candy making as a business and returned to Jackson to open a shop in Colonial Mart with just herself as an employee. She now has three full-time employees and 12 part-time high school and college students who work year round.
“We’re a traditional candy store. We make everything from scratch,” she said. “We buy chocolate in minimum 1,000-pound lots and sell 30,000 pounds of candy per year.”
She says American truffles made of light and dark chocolate with hazelnuts, chocolate-dipped strawberries, fudge, divinity, assorted chocolates and peanut brittle remain local favorites. Chocolate popcorn with its combination of salty and creamy sweet chocolate is a new treat that’s popular.
“I don’t follow trends like national candy companies that pander to the latest toys and movies. Adults want quality in their candy,” King said. “Small candy makers must be consistent and oriented to quality. There’s a lot of hand-intensive labor and the products will stay the same as long as we use quality ingredients.”
While there are cheaper and more expensive candies that can be purchased, she says she sees many young adults who were raised in Northeast Jackson bringing their children to Nandy’s Candy. “They remember what their mothers bought for them and want to continue the tradition with their children,” she said.
The snowballs at Nandy’s Candy are also a tradition that sweeten many hot days for people of all ages in Jackson. The shop added the icy treats when they stopped making ice cream.
Nandy’s Candy moved to its present location on Northside Drive seven years ago. “Traffic patterns change, and we need to be in a location where people come every day for necessities,” King said. “We have a definite clientele base but a lot of candy is bought on impulse, too.”
She chose her business’ name because she wanted one word that would work well advertising wise and thought Nancy’s Candy didn’t quite have the right ring. “Nandy’s Candy is easy to remember, and I want people to think Nandy’s Candy when they think of candy in Jackson,” she added.
This businesswoman prefers to hire young people around age 16 who have never worked for anyone else. “I get them brand new and train them and mold them into what I want,” she says. “Most shifts are four hours long, and we always have something to do.”
All the employees have their favorite confections because King encourages them to taste the candy so they can describe it to customers.
The students do a lot of packing and help King with the enrobber, a 22 1/2 -foot long piece of equipment that covers candy with chocolate. It’s a little like television’s “I Love Lucy” show when Lucy and Ethel worked in a candy factory and had a hilarious time trying to keep up with production.
“At first the kids think the enrobber is moving slow but they have to learn the rhythm of the machine and stay with it,” she said. “I can’t stop it. It has to keep moving.”
With chocolate being a highly perishable thing, it’s always 68 degrees inside the candy shop. In 24 years of business, King says she has never turned on the heat. “I tell the kids to wear their jackets and hooded sweatshirts if it’s cold, and I have a sign on the thermostat that threatens anyone’s life who changes it,” she said.
Nandy’s Candy does a lot of corporate business, especially this time of year. Many customers have custom-made chocolate molds with company logos that King keeps for them. They like that she’s local and there are no minimum orders.
“Candy is a gift that everyone enjoys, and businesses want to get their name out there,” she said. “We hold molds for businesses all over the state. They own their molds, and we can make five or 1,000 pieces of chocolate for them.”
What’s the favorite candy of this candy maker? “I like it all,” she’s quick to answer. “I’m not tired of it. God blessed me with a good metabolism and I eat some candy every day.”
She eats some dark chocolate almond clusters every day and recently indulged in caramel corn when they made many batches for Mistletoe Marketplace. Because the candy is so perishable, Nandy’s Candy doesn’t do any shows other than Mistletoe.
King, 55, feels small, independent candy shops are a dying breed. There are some 700 across the country. She has two grown daughters, Jenny and Emmie King, who are pursuing interests of their own although they’ve helped with candy making periodically.
Always verbal about women going into business, the owner of Nandy’s Candy says she can’t imagine trying to start her business in this day and time with the expense and hard work involved. “How did I do what I used to do?” she wonders. “I was fortunate to be supermom.”
As for retirement, she says, “They’ll probably find me dead in the chocolate machine. I’m not planning to retire unless I can have a little chocolate machine and sell dipped strawberries and lie on a beach somewhere.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.