Dena Manning and her family always have loved the homemade candy produced by Butterfields Candy Co.
So she jumped at the chance to buy the company in Nashville out of foreclosure two years ago. About six months later, she again had the company’s candy manufacturing plant at 2155 S. Old Franklin Road up and running.
“We were late coming into the (holiday) season, but we brought the product back in as soon as we could,” she said. “We had a really good year last year, and we expect to have an even better year this year.”
She said she has no regrets, as the company, which ships its product nationwide, had sales of more than $250,000 last year.
“Financially, we’ve done really well,” she said.
Her family members work at the plant. Manning also hired the confectioner who was making the candy before the plant shut down, Isidro Almonte.
“I eventually found the confectioner in a tobacco field,” she said.
The old-fashioned hard candy is handcrafted in copper kettles. The company makes peach buds, Key lime buds, lemon buds and honeybell orange buds.
Manning, of Raleigh, was born in Miami and raised in Central America. She previously had worked as a judicial interpreter.
“I had started a couple of other businesses before,” she said. “I wanted to import art work from Central and South America, and I incorporated a small business. But then, so many life situations occurred. My parents both became ill, and I was taking care of them, and then they passed. There are so many different things that kept me from pursuing anything.
“I don’t know, life always opens up a new door and this came along, and now I’m doing this. Somebody asked me the other day, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I didn’t see me doing this five years ago.’”
Manning knew the candy company’s previous owners, Tracey and Brooks West. The product fell off the market in 2009 when their plant closed.
“It took us a year to refurbish the factory,” she said. “We had to refurbish all the machinery because the factory had been abandoned for four years.”
The company first started in 1924 in Winston-Salem, where it was known as Cane Candy Co., Manning said.
By the late 1970s, it had become the Wilson Candy Co., owned by Charles Doak, whose father was the former N.C. State University baseball coach for whom the school’s baseball stadium is named. Back then, the company operated out of Rocky Mount.
In 1989, it was sold to the Wests, who moved the plant to Nashville. It operated there until closing.
The candy was a family favorite before she owned the company.
“My mother passed away from ovarian cancer in 1996, and her favorite candy, the only candy that she could eat or enjoy, were lemon buds, because they helped alleviate a lot of the symptoms when you undergo chemotherapy,” Manning said. “And that’s what I remembered about them. And then I found out about the other flavors, of course, and I’ve always loved hard candy.
“So when I heard that the business was closing, I did a lot of research for a couple of years to find out why the business had gone under. Was it the product? I called up different distributors, and retailers, and found out that the product was always great. Everybody loved the product. They missed it. So many people didn’t know what had happened.”
Q: What products or services do you provide?
A: We make hard candy, and we’re one of the very few hard candy companies left in the United States. We’re best known for our peach buds because our candies taste just like you are biting into the real fruit. That’s what we’re known for – our bold, fruit-like flavor. We use natural flavors and artificial to get it to that real taste of ripeness. We make lemon buds, Key lime buds, honeybell orange, and we are coming out with a cherry and a strawberry.
We have a factory right here in Nashville. We make all our candy right here in the factory. All our candy is handcrafted. We use copper kettles, and it’s all handmade. We hand blend the flavors and the citrus acid. It’s an arduous process.
We ship it out throughout the country. We actually ship it out to places like Alaska and Saipan. We do sell to stores throughout the country. We sell it at Almands Drugs and the Nashvile General Store.
Q: Who are your key leaders?
A: Owner Dena Manning, operations manager Harry Manning, engineer Joseph Manning and confectioner Isidro Almonte.
Q: How many people do you employ?
A: Five and a couple of seasonal workers.
Q: What is your business philosophy?
A: To make the best product available on the market. We just want to make people happy with our candy.
Q: What makes your business unique?
A: That we handcraft all our candy. We do everything the old-fashioned way. We’re trying to bring back the love of hard candy, the art of hard candy. So many companies have gone to gummie bears and chewy candies, and they are all machine-made, machine-processed. The way that we do it takes a little time.
Q: How has your business grown?
A: We went from zero a year and a half ago to last year we sold over $250,000.
Q: What kind of growth do you expect in the coming years?
A: We’re going to at least double our growth from last year, maybe more.