The sweet aroma of candy making fills the air in a quiet neighborhood in the middle of a Chesapeake residential area. Large fans that cool the building provide the means of “perfuming” the outside air. “Once a patrolling state trooper ‘tracked’ us down by ‘following his nose,’” says David Williams, owner of the Williams Candy Company. Williams owns the 100+ years old company with his mother, Lillie Mae Williams. She is now retired. His sister Ann and brother Joe are key members of the company family.
“I have had people in a doctor’s office ask me if I am the ‘candy man.’ They can smell the sugar on my clothes,” says Williams with a smile. He usually carries candy in his pocket.
Six family members plus one make up the employees. They are sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins. “My cousin came to work part-time and he has now been here seven years,” says Williams. Most are retired from their “regular” jobs. “I call us the ‘tired retirees,’” says Williams. “Before we retired, we would meet after work at a fast food place for supper and then go to our ‘second job’ at the factory,” he adds.
The factory produces only hard candy. “Our best seller is “Peach Buds,” says Williams. It is a multi-sided, multi-colored, peach-flavored piece. The candy is packaged in five-ounce bags, with 12 bags to a box. “The ingredients are simply corn syrup plus regular sugar plus water plus flavoring,” says Williams. There are 20 different flavors. Some examples include Fruit Lumps, Mint Puff, Vanilla, Banana, Fancy Mix, Hot Rocks, Cinnamon, Peppermint and Cotton Candy.
The corn syrup arrives in a tanker and is stored in large vats. Recipes are precise and the candy syrup must be handled carefully since the process is very hot.
The months of September through December are the busy season, with many times the number of sales in January through August. “We are open only two to three days a week during that slow time,” says Williams. “On busy days we have people lined up out the front door. Our customers are so loyal they will line up in any kind of weather,” he adds.
The candy company has appeared in many local publications and on television shows. It does not have a web site but relies on its Facebook presence. Its Facebook page features an ongoing game with an elf doll that is photographed in many activities around the factory/warehouse. Sometimes there are contests with prizes.
“We do a significant mail order business. The wholesale part of our business is the major component,” says Williams. Sales actually picked up during the pandemic. “With Peach Buds leading our sales, Hot Rocks and Peppermint follow closely behind. My personal favorite is Banana. Interestingly enough, the northern part of the country prefers Peppermint and the South prefers Hot Rocks. Children much prefer chocolate candy. In fact, we are considering not including children less than six years old in the tours because they become bored when they realize there is no chocolate.”
Williams has a boat and enjoys ocean fishing. He takes a lot of teasing from friends because he isn’t very successful at catching fish. He enjoyed a trip to Alaska and hopes to take a trip “out West” some day. Williams is married and has two boys who are not involved in the business.
Williams Candy Company welcomes walk-ins and will give impromptu tours. With a grin, Williams says his candy is sometimes called “old people candy” because people remember seeing it in fancy candy dishes in their grandmothers’ houses.
TO THE POINT:
H.E. Williams Candy Company
Address: 1230 Perry St., Chesapeake, VA 23324
Contacts: Lillie Mae Williams, owner;
David Williams, owner