A Candy House employee
weighs candy for a customer at the original store in Redings
Mill. The store first opened in 1970.
toffee, divinity. Caramels, peanut brittle, cherry cordials, chocolate
nut clusters. Dark chocolate, white chocolate, milk chocolate, sugar-free
Terry Hicklin knows
them all. He knows no recipes are more finicky. He knows a degree
too hot or too cold can prevent divinity from being divine and peanut
brittle from being brittle. He knows every possible element — humidity,
melting temperature, cocoa content, creams, milk, sugar, timing — any
and every possible consideration can deter his candy from perfection. And this,
he knows, is what separates Candy House Gourmet Chocolate from the competition.
is so much harder to make than other types of food because there are so many
ways to mess it up,” he says. “It’s such a precise
has found the recipe for success.
Since buying the
Candy House in 1999, the business has grown 500 percent. The confectionary
company now produces several hundred thousand pounds of hand-dipped
chocolate each year. Besides the original Candy House location, Terry’s
added three retail stores and a factory in southwest Missouri. Still,
the company continues to expand.
recipes for delicious Candy House Gourmet Chocolate hasn’t
changed much over the years. The company still uses pure chocolate
without additives and pays attention to even the slightest details
throughout the candymaking process.
“It all goes
back to quality and service,” Terry says. “We
pride ourselves on our service to the customers. And we get notes every
day about how great the chocolate is.”
At the Candy House
Chocolate Factory in Joplin, Terry is right at home. He spends
his days surrounded by kettles of chocolate, conveyer belts of
candy and boxes of sweets.
Every day, he continues a never-ending quest to improve his chocolate
Terry refuses to
mix in additives, which provide a longer shelf life but take away
from the taste. He constantly refines old recipes and tweaks new
ones. Caramel apples, chocolate-covered strawberries, the Missouri
Walking Stick (a pretzel rod dipped in caramel, rolled in pecans
and drizzled in milk, white and dark chocolate), and heart-healthy
chocolates are just a few of the bestselling products he’s added
over the years. That’s in addition to the original recipes.
still don’t think there’s any better English toffee in
the world — or caramels,” he says. “If you take a
good center and coat it with good chocolate, you’re going
to have success.”
|After buying the Candy
House in 1999, owner Terry Hicklin helped the business grow by
500 percent. Besides the original store in Redings Mill, the
company now includes four retail locations, a factory and a partnership
with Sam’s Club stores
throughout southwest Missouri.
Terry ensures every
person who walks through the door at one of his shops is met with
a smile and a sample of his locally renowned, hand-dipped chocolate.
lot of our decisions have come from listening to customers,” he
have helped the Candy House come a long way over the past three decades.
Terry ever thought about candymaking, there was Richardson’s
Candy House. In 1970, Don and Peggy Richardson opened the original
candy house in a two-story white-rock building in Redings Mill,
a village five miles south of Joplin. Peggy’s mother, Dolly
Smith, had owned chocolate companies in Florida and drove up to
Missouri while in her ’80s to teach them the recipes. Where
she got those recipes, the same ones used today, Terry
For the next 30
years, the company remained pretty much the same. Every batch was
hand-stirred by the owners in a 12-pound amount. The Richardsons
never hired a full-time production person despite a booming business.
Finally, the family sold the Candy House in 1994. Five years later,
it was back on the market.
In 1999, Terry
was looking to leave his job as a food broker and run a fishing resort
in Branson. He would have spent his golden years stringing poles,
fixing toilets and doing maintenance on cabins.
have been the worst mistake of my life because I’m not
a handyman,” he says. “I literally
would have been a fish out of water.”
Emily Thulleson gazes at the many varieties of chocolate in the
storefront at the Candy House Chocolate Factory in Joplin.
the deal fell through and Terry found himself
scanning the classified section of the Springfield News-Leader.
That’s when he saw it: “FOR
SALE — CONFECTIONARY COMPANY IN THE GROSS.”
told my wife, Pat, ‘Something’s
wrong. This is making money,’” he
recalls. The next day, the Hicklins drove to
Redings Mill to see Richardson’s
Candy House for themselves. Three days later,
they signed a contract and became the new owners.
was overwhelmed during the first year. The
homemade chocolate required long hours of
stirring and standing over hot kettles. On top of it,
understand the chemistry of candy.
bought the recipes, but I had no idea how
they worked,” he
says. “Getting into it, I had no
idea what a precise science it is.”
Terry decided to go back to school — candy
school. He signed up for a 15-day school
in Erie, Penn., sponsored by Retail Confectioners
International, an organization consisting
of more than 400 chocolate and candy
retailers around the nation. The organization
hosts the schools only once every two
years and accepts just 24 students.
year, Terry was fortunate enough to
be selected and learn from the top candymakers
in the United States and England. At
the school, he spent three days learning
about the chemistry of everything from
candy canes to creams, before moving
on to the cooking process and equipment.
Terry returned to Missouri, he had a vision. While still using
the original recipes, he bought two automated
kettles and a chocolate enrober that
made the process six times faster.
A year later, he opened a store in
Carthage, then in Springfield. Finally,
in 2004, the Hicklins built the Candy
House Chocolate Factory in Joplin,
where demand has already outgrown supply.
the Candy House Chocolate Factory place chocolate in boxes as
the product travels along an enrober.
more room for cooking, but we could use twice as much space for storage,” he
Much of the Candy
House’s recent growth is due to orders
from corporate clients, including Sam’s Club. The lucrative
partnership with the warehouse retail chain came about when a
food buyer tasted the chocolate during a road show in 2004.
buyer said it’s the best chocolate he’s ever tasted,” says
Terry. “And he’s
tried candy from all over the
The buyer suggested
selling the chocolate on
the company’s Web site, www.samsclub.com.
Terry wisely took his advice
and online sales have doubled
over the past two years.
currently have as much,
if not more, going out the back
door as the front door,” he
says. “People are
here from 6:30 in the morning
until 10:30 at night. It’s
a great tribute to the
As for the
future, Terry predicts
even sweeter days. “I
anything but an increase
in customer quality and
service,” he says
with a generous smile.
To learn more, call (417) 623-7171 or visit www.candyhouse.net.