Info & History
Sharp's makes over 100 different varieties of candy, all from family recipes and all but the chocolate made from scratch. The distinctive part of many of those 100 candies is the unique soft center. Without giving too much away, Rob Sharp says it has to do with the preparation of the ingredients, the use of invert sugar (a natural preservative) and the handling during the candy making process.
Nobody in the world makes soft centers the way we do,' he says. 'Most companies have a fondant-based center, which we find inferior. 'Our quality is superior because we make it all right here in this location. It's fresher because the kitchen is 30 feet away. We're constantly rotating our inventory in small batches -- that's the advantage of being a small company. With a large satellite operation, you have to make large batches and ship it to all your stores. That's why we haven't expanded: we haven't been able to keep the freshness. It's also why we don't sell wholesale -- I can't maintain the freshness I want. We could gain huge shelf-life if we used artificial preservatives, but we don't. The very thing that's so successful about our business is exactly the thing that keeps us from growing.'
But he doesn't seem to mind. National surveys show that sales of high-quality boxed chocolates are at an all-time high. Among tourists, especially the Japanese, Sharp has found an attractive market. In the month of December alone, the company sells 17 tons of candy. Plans for the future include an updated showroom inside the landmark gingerbread house on Regency Road.
'People feel like they can come in, walk back while we're packaging their candy, talk to our people -- it's just a warm, cozy, fuzzy feeling. I don't ever want people to become a number here.' At Sharp's it's all about knowing the meaning of names -- both the one on the sign and the ones waiting in line. 'Sharp's Candies is owned by Rob Sharp, the candy is made by Rob Sharp, Rob Sharp wears an apron,' the owner says. 'I follow the candy from its beginning to its end, including being at the cash register. I think that's the most important part of being a small business -- opening the lines of communication with your customers. It's harder to do it that way, but it's worth it.'