Made in Milan: Candyland offers homemade treats

‘Made In Milan’
Candyland offers homemade treats
By Steve Short
Chocolate. Caramel. Pecan pieces. Strawberries.
These are the ingredients that comprise some of the sweetest products “made in Milan.”
Aunt, Ninny and Papa’s Candyland Gift Shoppe makes batch after batch of candy “alligators” and chocolate dipped strawberries that are bought locally and shipped all over the country.

SERVING SMILES – Candyland employee Barbara Johnson holds a box of candy in front of the large display case. Storeowners Nancy Bradford and Cheri Childress say the Milan business provides a service that brings smiles to people’s faces.

“Who doesn’t smile, when they get a gift of chocolates?” asked Candyland co-owner Nancy Bradford, who has made candy at the store for 13 years.
Located at S. First and Jones Blvd., Candyland offers many gift items, but it’s most unique product is probably homemade candy. “Alligators” – medium-sized, chewy concoctions of chocolate, caramel and pecans – are a popular item. One customer orders 20 pounds at a time!
Chocolate covered strawberries are also a specialty. A sign in the window tells customers when they are available.
“Our double-dipped chocolate strawberries are unique,” said Nancy Bradford. “They are dipped in our secret recipe, white filling and then dipped in chocolate. Our white filling recipe is so secret, that ‘Papa’ (Mark Bradford) makes it when no one else is at the store.”
A family atmosphere is important to Candyland owners and reflected in the store name. The “aunt” is Cheri Childress; the “Ninny” is her sister, Nancy Bradford, and “Papa” is Nancy’s husband, Mark Bradford. Large “then and now” photographs of family kids hang on walls inside the store.
“Ultimately, family and love of family is the most important thing,” said Cheri Childress.
Candyland was started at the Adobe Square shopping center at S. First and Cunningham St. by founder Bonita Jay sometime before the year 2000. The current owners, who also manage Subway franchises, bought Candyland in 2004, when Subway was in Adobe Square.
How has Candyland continued to be successful for two decades? Nancy Bradford cites the store’s “customer service from the Candyland ladies” as a key.
“Our ladies show love and caring for all of our customers,” said Bradford. “Many of our customers that come in are troubled about something – a death, a new diagnosis of cancer, family matters, etc. Our ladies are always willing to listen to their stories. Customers come in to get chocolate to cheer them up, and they leave with chocolate and a feeling that someone cares.

CANDYLAND KITCHEN – Helen Graves (right) and Nancy Bradford combine pecan pieces, caramel and chocolate to make one of Candyland’s most popular items – alligators. Chocolate covered strawberries are also very popular. All are crafted by hand.

People come in with stories and discuss a friend or loved one. Customers feel free to talk, and we have time to listen.”

Cheri Childress sees Candyland as a community service. “People leave the store with a box of candy and a smile,” she said. “The people who work here are very spiritual. The store is a little shop where people can talk about things that are bothering them. They leave the store feeling happier. That’s rare in this age of high technology and instant gratification. I feel blessed to be part of that.”
“Of course, the number one reason for our success is our quality product,” adds Nancy Bradford.
The store’s top sellers are double-dipped chocolate strawberries, alligators and tiger butter. Fudge comes in different flavors. There are also sugar free chocolates.
Candy from the Candyland kitchen is sold to customers from across West Tennessee. “Hardly a day goes by, that we don’t have a customer from Paris, Huntingdon, Union City, Brownsville, Jackson or Medina,” said Ms. Bradford. “About half our customers are from outside Milan,”
“We have corporate clients from Memphis that we provide Christmas gifts for,” added Bradford. “We ship our candy all over the U.S. as gifts for clients of businesses. We have one customer that ships five pounds of alligators at a time to family members in other states.”
The store has three regular employees, but the number can increase to 25 employees during holidays when the store sells a thousand pounds of strawberries, every berry hand dipped in white filling and chocolate.
“From making our candy by hand, to wrapping every piece and boxing it, it takes all hands at Candyland for one piece of candy,” said Nancy Bradford. “Our candy is not manufactured; it’s all done by hand.”

SISTER ACT – Candyland Gift Shoppe co-owners, sisters Cheri Childress (left) and Nancy Bradford are shown with a seasonal display inside the store, which specializes in homemade candy and also offers gift items, including jewelry and clothing.

“We like providing a service to the people of our community that brings smiles to their faces,” added Ms. Bradford. “For us, it is fun to be out in the public and hear someone say, ‘These are the Candyland ladies.’”
Candyland also offers gifts for all occasions including weddings, bereavement gifts, jewelry and clothing.
Candyland Gift Shoppe profile
·         Name of company: Aunt, Ninny and Papa’s Candyland Gift Shoppe.
·         Number of employees/shifts: 3 employees regularly; up to 25 employees during           Valentine’s and other holidays.
·         Location; size of plant: 1019 Jones Blvd. /1,500 sq. ft. / Original location in Adobe           Square center.
·         Owners: Mark and Nancy Bradford; Cheri Childress
·         Date firm started operating in Milan: Around 1999. The current owners purchased           Candyland from founder Bonita Jay in 2004.
 ·        Products: Handmade chocolates, alligators, double-dipped chocolate strawberries,           wedding and baby shower mints, customized suckers, fudge, tiger butter, chocolate covered graham crackers and marshmallows, peanut butter melt-aways, gift           items, clothing, jewelry. 

1 Comment

  1. Marian Johnson on December 4, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    I have come and bought Chocolate Turtles for my grandson on his 12th, 14th and 20th birthday. I tried making them myself but found out it’s a terrible job so just decided to leave that to you all. He still loves them and will ask when will he get more. I think it will be a nice surprise to put a few in his stocking for Christmas!

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