By JACK WEATHERLY
Valentine’s is just what America needs, as Nancy King sees it.
Her shop, Nandy’s Candy, has been around for nearly 40 years and seen social and political change.
“Our country seems to be divided about everything,” she says ensconced in her tiny office. “Valentine’s gives you a break. Who can argue politics or anything else with love.”
The formulas she uses for chocolates and other sweets haven’t changed since she was teen-ager in Houston and was exposed to what would make a life’s work for her.
Now the business has entered its second generation of making confections.
About three years ago, she turned over control of the business in Jackson’s Maywood Mart to one of her daughters, Emmie King, who was riding herd on a small mountain of shipping boxes on Monday, the biggest shipping day of the year for the shop.
Nandy, by the way, is a variation of Nancy.
On the way to the bank to finance the business, Nancy finally settled on a name. She’d been wrestling with that for six months and rolling the names around in her head. At the last minute, she came up with Nandy because, well, candy is dandy, and Nandy does sound like Nancy.
“I wanted one word, because when you think of candy, you think of Mars, Hershey, Nestle,” she said.
Corporately, it was longer: Nandy’s Candy and Ice Cream Factory. Then ice cream was dropped after four years.
In its place came snowballs, still a warm-weather favorite.
Nandy’s products are as personal for customers as people are to her, she said.
“When [Hurricane] Katrina came, we had all these people from New Orleans.,” she said. “They would be so excited to see an actual New Orleans shaved-ice snowball.”
Push come to shove, King says the American Truffle is probably her biggest seller. The name is a bit misleading. It’s a combination of light and dark chocolates with hazlenut meats.
Caramels covered with chocolate give it a run, she said.
Things really get cranked up in the little shop starting in August.
Christmas is already looming by then. Corporate sales are a big part of the business and one especially large customer’s order couldn’t get filled if production didn’t start in late summer.
Halloween is the first big event in the candy season, followed by Thanksgiving,, Mistletoe Marketplace and then Christmas.
Before long, it’s time to think about Valentine’s, the single biggest day of the confections calendar.
Nancy takes a break from her interview to fill an order.
“Yes, ma’am. They’re $36 a pound. In a pound right now, they’re running about medium-sized so I’m getting about 16 to 18 [straw]berries. You don’t have to buy a full pound. You can buy one berry, two berries, whatever.”
It seems no worker ever really leaves Nandy’s. Former employees come back for Valentine’s, taking a vacation day at their regular job just to help out on the big day. “They’re devoted.”
The store swells from two regulars to upwards of ten workers in the tight little shop. Among the candy elves is Bill King, Nancy’s husband with whom she will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in August.
On the shop’s red-letter day, it is invaded by procrastinators, and maybe those who just fell in love, when the line into the store overflows out onto the sidewalk and customers haven’t even thought about Easter, much less the world’s troubles.
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