The smell of nuts roasting often welcomes Brian Jackson to work.
“When I park in the morning, generally before I even open the door, I can tell what the crew is cooking,” said Jackson, Woody Candy Company’s president and COO.
Peanut brittle is the predominant product. Woody Candy churns it out in droves, thanks to private-label production deals and its ongoing popularity in their retail shop at 922 N.W. 70th Street.
Jackson represents Woody Candy’s fourth generation of leadership, and his family has expanded the brittle portfolio substantially, both in distribution and flavors. Today, they sell pumpkin, maple, jalapeno and Hatch chile brittle, in addition to the original recipe.
The company has come a long way since Claude Woody Sr. founded it in 1927 out of the back of his truck. Woody would make candy throughout the week and then drive it to mom-and-pop stores and five-and-dimes on the weekends. He eventually purchased and opened a production facility and storefront, which his son, Claude Woody Jr., managed thereafter. When Claude Jr. was ready to retire, his friend Bill Jackson stepped forward with great interest. The Jackson family – Bill and Elaine Jackson, with son Brian – purchased the company in early 2014, transitioning the local candy producer from one family to another.
All nuts are roasted on site, allowing for quality control and freshness. The Jackson family has maintained Woody Candy favorites – like the chewy caramel pralines sold in Cracker Barrels nationwide – while adding new sweets to the candy collection.
“Our sea salt almond clusters is a recipe that I developed about four or five years ago that people just go bananas over,” Jackson said.
In addition to perfecting the products, the Jackson family has prioritized one crucial ingredient: relationships.
“We’ve had growth of existing accounts as well as [new] accounts,” Jackson said, noting that client appreciation-related sales keep the Woody Candy team humming. “It’s been [all about] relationships with buyers. It’s been beating doors, cold calling and just helping people with client appreciation [gifts].”
Today customers can buy Woody Candy delectables online or in person. The candy shop is especially busy during the holidays. Valentine’s Day is no exception.
“I would say 90-plus percent of Valentine’s sales happen on the 14th between 4:30 and 6 p.m.,” Jackson said with a smile, happy the store can provide those much-needed, last-minute valentines. “Turtles, toffee and fudge have a pretty strong Valentine’s Day following; we’ll be fully stocked and ready for that.”
Mixed in with the crowd may be 90-year-old Claude Woody Jr., who still stops in to tease the staff and procure ingredients for his at-home projects. And, his touch on the store is certainly still there: The portrait he painted of Claude Woody Sr. still hangs behind the register.