One of the sweetest things in life is success. Nancy King experienced success with the business she started in 1980, Nandy’s Candy. She started it because it’s what she knew and loved. Nancy has had a lifelong passion for candy.
As a girl in Hutchinson, Kansas, Nancy loved going to the little store next to the movie theatre. The Caramel Shop sold penny candy, and she would save up her pennies to buy a fifteen cent bag of candy. When she was 16, her parents moved to Houston, and a friend encouraged her to apply to work at the candy shop with her. Nancy went to work at Kegg’s Candy all through high school and summers during college.
Nancy and her husband moved to Jackson in 1972, and they started a pest control business. After a few years, Nancy had an idea. She had maintained a strong relationship with the owners of Kegg’s, and she called to ask if they would wholesale candy that she could sell in Jackson. Instead, the owner said he’d teach her to make it. On a leap of faith, Nancy founded Nandy’s Candy in 1980. The store moved a couple of times before it landed in its current location in Maywood Mart in 1997.
Throughout that time, Nancy’s daughters, Emmie and Jenny, helped in the candy shop. “We helped cook, pack, and market for the company, yet neither of us ever thought about getting into the candy business,” says Emmie King, who now owns the company her mother started. “My mom always encouraged us to follow our dreams.” Emmie’s dreams led her to the University of Kansas, where she majored in print-making and art history. After graduating, Emmie moved back to Jackson to help “with the season.” She worked at the store from August through Easter 1996, then moved to New York.
“I was seeking a life in the arts,” explained Emmie. “My mom contacted one of the friends in her candy network who offered me a place to live. I made paper for art dealers during the week, and worked in the candy factory on weekends for five years. I learned to be an art dealer during that time, which was great.” She also met her husband, who wanted to go to law school. They moved to Oxford, and when he graduated from Ole Miss law school, he took a job in Jackson. Emmie took a job at the Mississippi Museum of Art, where she worked for a few years.
Nancy eventually found herself unable to do the hands-on work of making candy, and Emmie was looking for something that would give her more time with her two young children. “I started working part-time at Nandy’s Candy, mostly to do the marketing. It was convenient and familiar, and it worked with my family.” Then Nancy developed back problems and Emmie started making the candy. The part-time job became a full-time job. Nine years have passed, and now Emmie owns the store.
“I can’t see myself doing anything else. I see this store as a local treasure. We make all our candy by hand in copper pots in the back of the store. We have generations of customers, many of whom have been buying candy with us since they were children, and now they have children, and even grandchildren, of their own.” Emmie says what she loves best about the store is that in this fast-paced social-media and Internet world, brick-and-mortar stores are almost sentimental. “When people come in here, they slow down. They look at everything, and we have great conversations. It’s wonderful to see moms having snowballs with their children after school. I even see moms and teenagers come in and take the time to select something then enjoy eating it together.”
Each season delights Emmie. “Right now, I’m having so much fun surrounded by all the holiday treats. But I love every season. Each one is special.” Emmie stressed that the candies at Nandy’s Candy are not churned out in a factory, but each piece is made by hand. “I still use the recipes my mom and dad developed, and I make the candy using 38-year-old machines. I can call my mom and explain any problem I’m having, and she can almost always talk me through fixing it. I’ve had to learn to be both a mechanic and electrician!”
While the recipes, techniques and equipment may be old, Emmie is making sure Nandy’s Candy is relevant in today’s world. She posts beautiful product shots on Facebook and Instagram, as well as action videos of candy being made. Products are available for sale on the business’s web site. “A lady in California just ordered two pounds of our American truffles online,” Emmie said. “She said she couldn’t live without them, and she’d happily pay for expedited shipping!”
Just as Emmie grew up in her mother’s candy store, her own children are growing up as the third generation in the family to be surrounded by sweets. Does she ever get tired of the taste of chocolate? “Never!” And she never gets tired of talking with her mother about the business. “I see things differently, and that’s not a bad thing. I’ll tell her what I’m doing, and she might say that would never work for her. But she always supports and trusts me, and that makes all the difference. My mother is a force of nature. I’ll be forever proud of her. She has built a great following in this area, and this market has always supported us. There’s a piece of my heart here, and I know others feel the same. I know we are fortunate.”
And with that, Emmie King is feeling sweet success in the business her mother started long ago.
Nandy’s Candy is located in the Maywood Mart Shopping Center at 1220 E Northside Dr #380, Jackson. The candy shop is open Mon.-Sat. 10am to 6pm. You may also shop online for the best confections in Mississippi at www.nandys-candy.myshopify.com.