The Makers: Wayne and Cassie Bolden
Birmingham Candy Company
Birmingham is a little sweeter since Wayne and Cassie Bolden moved to town.
The couple opened Birmingham Candy Co., focusing on selling handcrafted Southern sweets that are not available in grocery stores. Their new business is in a 100-square-foot converted shipping container in Railroad Park steps away from Regions Field. The unusual storefront has been home base for the new business for two months.
“It has been the perfect opportunity for a small business like ours that is transitioning from selling our candy at farmers markets, events and pop-ups to a brick and mortar store,” said Cassie.
The idea for the business came to the Boldens on their wedding day four years ago. Wayne had temporarily taken a job at a candy store in Savannah, Georgia – a new experience since he had worked in the computer industry.
“We decided to have a candy table at our wedding and had pralines and paws (chocolate caramel pecan turtles) for our guests,” Wayne said. “After the ceremony, everything was gone, even the back stock. People kept telling Cassie, ‘It was a great wedding, and you are beautiful. And by the way, where can we get more of that candy?’”
The owner of the candy store in Savannah had taken Wayne under his wing, teaching him the fine art of making Southern sweets as well as the other aspects of the business.
Shortly after their wedding, the couple moved to Birmingham, Cassie’s hometown, where they decided to try their hand at running their own candy business.
Their first experience with candy sales was memorable, Wayne said. They hosted a booth at Pepper Place on a rainy Saturday in October 2015.
“We’ll never forget it. It was pouring,” Wayne said. “People kept asking, ‘When did Birmingham get a candy company and what is all this?’ I had to introduce them to pralines and turtles because they weren’t sold here. But we actually had a very good response.”
Cassie said they learned a lot that day.
“We just had all our candy out in the open,” she said. “We had little kids touching it and pointing at it. We quickly learned to put up a barrier.”
Since that experience, the Boldens have become familiar faces at Pepper Place.
Their idea, said Wayne, was to build the brand by taking their candy directly to the customers.
“We believe in getting our customer base built first before setting up our retail store so that people will already know who we are and what we offer,” he said. “We won’t have to spend all that money on advertising because we have already gone into the community to these farmers markets and pop-ups.”
Wayne and Cassie both have their own roles in the business.
Wayne jokingly said he is the “chief everything officer.” He is primarily the confectioner. But he handles everything from cooking to sales to accounting to packaging the candy to sweeping the floor.
Cassie, who has a degree in interior design from Savannah College of Arts and Design, focuses on marketing, social media, developing and promoting the brand, and creating the packaging. She also helps Wayne in the kitchen and has begun making candy, specializing in chocolate caramel marshmallow pops. Cassie’s mom, Deb Warnat, helps make deliveries and serves as their sounding board and “cheerleader.”
“This business is our baby right now,” said Cassie. “We started it now because we didn’t want to wonder later what would have happened if we had opened that candy company. We’re building a better life and building a legacy.”
Running the business, Wayne said, is a 24/7 operation. While one is “minding” the store, the other is making candy or handling other business-related responsibilities.
“We eat and breathe the business,” Wayne said. “It’s hard to carve out a little time for ourselves. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
The Boldens said their big sellers often depend on the season. Pralines and truffles are most popular during the summer, while people buy caramel apples in the fall and paws at Christmastime.
Although most of their candy is handmade, the shop carries old-fashioned goodies for kids, such as jawbreakers, pixie sticks and bubble gum. They even partner with another Birmingham-based company, Buffalo Rock, to sell soft drinks in glass bottles.
Wayne said watching people’s faces as they enjoy the candy he made with his “own two hands” brings him great satisfaction.
“I enjoy getting to know the customers and seeing them enjoy our candy,” added Cassie. “We’re literally part of their lives, whether they are buying candy for themselves or a gift for their friends.”
For now, the couple is focusing on selling their candy in their “little box” store at Railroad Park, although they have also shipped it to customers nationwide.
Additionally, their candy can be purchased at the gift shop at the Marriott Hotel on Highway 280. Their peanut brittle is available at the Peanut Depot in Birmingham.
Cassie and Wayne said they hope to move to a permanent brick and mortar store in early 2018.
“I think the best decision we ever made was to name our company after Birmingham,” Wayne said. “If you want to give a little piece of Birmingham to friends and family, come see us. We give you the best of Birmingham.”
Drop by the store Tuesday through Sunday or visit http://www.birminghamcandycompany.com to check out Birmingham Candy’s tasty selections.
The product: A wide variety of chocolate and other handmade candy treats.
Take home: A bag of praline pecans ($20).
Corner of First Avenue South and 14th Street in Birmingham Railroad Park
Follow on Instagram.