The Maker: Nancy Curl
Morgan Price Candy Company, Decatur
Nancy Curl is busier than Cupid during the week leading to Valentine’s Day.
Since last week, Curl and her staff at Morgan Price Candy Co. in Decatur have been working frantically turning out thousands of chocolate-dipped strawberries, their most in-demand sweet for the season.
“We use strawberries that are grown specifically for Valentine’s Day,” said Curl, adding they measure about 2 inches in length and are topped with extremely long stems. “The strawberries just get more and more popular every year. But we have to wait until the week before Valentine’s Day to dip them because of the short shelf life.”
Curl said the first chapter in the candy company’s story was written long before she took the reins in 2010.
Two sisters, Mary Morgan and Margaret Price, started the business in 1987 with their father’s secret pralines recipe and their own version of peanut brittle. Their third specialty was English toffee, which they made using a family recipe that Morgan got from her husband. All three candies are still among Morgan Price’s top sellers, Curl said.
In those early years, the sisters sold most of their candy through the mail. They made their goodies after hours in the kitchens of an area school and a local restaurant.
In 1992, Morgan, who was leading the business alone by that time, opened her own shop to take care of her growing number of requests. Price had been forced to leave the business because she found she was allergic to nuts.
Morgan included gifts with the candy – a practice that is still an important part of the business.
“That way, you can have the candy now and then you can have something nice in the end that you can keep,” Curl said.
Although Morgan’s shop was off the beaten path in a strip mall in a residential area, it became the “go-to store for candy,” Curl said. Along with running the business, Morgan was active in various community and civic organizations in Decatur, which helped spread the word about her candy.
From chocoholic to chocolatier
Curl began working part-time at Morgan’s shop in 2008 after her retirement from a bank.
“I knew Mary because she was a customer at our bank and a volunteer in the community. People would also give me her candy as gifts because everybody knows I’m a chocoholic,” Curl said. “When I retired, I wanted to do something a little different, so I started working at the candy shop part time during the busy seasons to learn the trade.”
In 2010, Curl purchased the store from Morgan, who retired and moved to Florida. Curl relocated the shop to a stand-alone building in a more prominent area of the city and remodeled it to allow customers to watch the chocolatiers at work in the kitchen.
“Our shop has become a destination,” Curl said. “We’re a community store. People who stop are actually coming here to buy candy.”
In addition to its local sales, Curl has a large mail order business. Morgan Price has shipped candy to all 50 states and many countries, including Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, England, Japan and Korea, as well as to Central and South American nations.
Curl often hires extra staff to make candy during the holidays to handle the increased load.
The busiest season, she said, is Christmas, with many customers placing their orders as early as August. Valentine’s Day is the second-busiest holiday for the store, while Easter is the third most hectic season.
Curl said the chocolatiers each have their own specialty, and her forte is making pralines.
Although Morgan’s English toffee is still one of the most popular items in the company’s product line, Curl said her favorite is Heavenly Bits, made with milk chocolate, pecans and marshmallows. She noted they “just melt in your mouth.”
“We know what our most popular candies are, but it’s still a challenge to really know what the volume is going to be,” Curl said. “When you make candy, it’s hard to know when to stop. People don’t think about buying candy until the last minute, so having the right merchandise mix and the right amount available when people want it is a challenge.”
Along with selling candy and gifts, Curl has expanded her offerings in the summer to include 14 flavors of gelato, the Italian version of ice cream.
Although a large part of Morgan Price’s success is because of the taste and quality of the candy, Curl said presentation has helped set the company apart from its competitors. To that end, the staff focuses a lot of time and attention on packaging. The candy is often packed in cellophane-topped gold boxes decorated with ribbons and including a card.
The bottom line, Curl said, is that Morgan Price candy is “handcrafted in small batches” for freshness.
“It always smells good in here,” she said. “Eating the chocolate candy is my favorite part of the business. I never get tired of it.”
The Product: A wide assortment of freshly made candies.
Take Home: A gift box featuring Morgan Price’s five best-selling candies: English Toffee, Angel Bites, Heavenly Bits, Peanut Brittle and Creamy Pralines. Available in small and large.
Morgan Price Candy Company, 1735 Sixth Ave. SE, Decatur, AL