Jessica Ballou, Published January 22 2012
It's My Job: Widman’s satisfying sweet tooths for four generations
Other than employees, no one is allowed in the kitchen, not even the Food Network, which offered to feature the candy shop.
These are just a few of the tips and rules at Carol Widman’s Candy Co. in south Fargo. Carol Widman Kennedy and her husband, David, are the owners, operators and sole candy makers at the shop. They’ve run the business since 1990.
The Widman family also has two other candy shop locations, one in Grand Forks and one in Crookston, Minn.
Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
A: The people. That’s the reason I’m here. We get people from all over the U.S. To be in a small business, you have to enjoy (the people).
I like the creativity. If we want to make a new candy, we make a new candy. If we want to make a new display, we make a new display.
What makes this candy shop different from others in the area?
It’s been in our family for four generations, since 1885.
We literally make the raw products. We make it in big copper kettles. Each piece is hand dipped one at a time.
The candy makers are myself and my husband – we’re it. We try for uniformity, but there isn’t any. It takes time, but quality takes time. We have the knowledge to dip. It’s a very complicated process.
David and I make the candy, and then we have dippers, and we have people who assist us, like with cutting candies, rolling candies. We make over 200 different kinds of candy. We do packaging in the back and selling. Everything is done on site.
It has to do with reputation – it’s my name. I watch everything like a hawk.
What’s the busiest time of year?
Christmas time, we always get wiped out.
What’s your most popular item?
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.
Milk chocolate is in about the 90th percentile over the dark (chocolate).
And then chips, caramels and turtles. Those are the big three.
What’s your typical day-to-day like?
That’s the thing, because I don’t think there is a typical day. I prioritize and things come up.
I make a list, but I never really make it all the way to the bottom. There’s a lot of variety here.
How did you first get involved with this business?
When I grew up, I never had the intention to do this. We were never encouraged to go into the candy business. It’s a tremendous amount of work. You have to be immersed in the center of it at all times.
It wasn’t (my parents’) intention either. I started at a young age helping in the store. Like farm kids, you don’t realize when you’re young that you’re learning.
Since Christmas is your busiest season, when do you have to start preparing for that?
We start candy making in the fall and keep going, and it builds. It’s an intense time of year.
(In January) we might not be busy in the store, but we’re very busy in the kitchen. We look over inventory every week.
Our cherries are our slowest candy process. They’re handled four times and dipped three times, hand dipped, by the stem. When they’re gone, they’re gone. It’s a very slow process, and we can only make so many at a time.
What are some of the unique or crazy candies you’ve made over the years?
The fun part is coming up with something crazy that customers enjoy, like olives, jalapenos and pickles (dipped in chocolate).
We have Dave’s North Dakota Cow pie made by my dad for David, my husband. It’s a turtle with marshmallow.
We also do blueberries, cranberries, dates, caramel apples that are seasonal, and we do a nut roll once a year. It takes six of us to make it.
For Chippers, that recipe is from over 40 years ago.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jessica Ballou at (701) 237-7311
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