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W. Indiana chocolatier part of Grammy gift bags

Sweet success: Small, home-based western Indiana chocolatier lands Grammy Awards gift bag deal

Posted on Aug. 10, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Aug. 10, 2014 at 3:19 p.m.

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — Superstar music celebs such as Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams and Lorde may soon be munching on candy made in a quaint corner of the Wabash Valley.

Brooke’s Candy Co., a Vermillion County business operated out of a century-old home in Dana, Ind., was selected as one of dozens of companies to provide gifts to musical artists and the media at the 2015 Grammy Awards, the Tribune-Star reported (http://bit.ly/1yklK88).

The Grammys will be Feb. 8 in Los Angeles. Brooke’s Candy Co. will also provide candy for the stars at the Latin Grammys, set for Nov. 20 of this year in Las Vegas.

“They’re looking for stuff the stars have never had,” said Brooke Schmidt, president of the candy company, where she and one employee make every toffee, turtle and piece of fudge by hand.

The best-known product Brooke makes is chocolate-covered almond toffee, which is what the stars will find in their gift bags. Each 2-ounce piece, sprinkled with roasted almonds, will be placed in an elegant gift box bearing the Brooke’s Candy logo and — just as a bonus — information about PINK of Terre Haute, a group that raises money for people affected by breast cancer.

Brooke’s Candy will be sending 120 boxes to the Latin Grammys and 150 boxes to the 2015 Grammy Awards. Brooke’s did not seek this honor, but rather a company that selects the gifts for the Grammys asked the Dana-based business to send in a sample. “They loved it,” Schmidt said.

It would be hard to find a smaller company involved in “Music’s Biggest Night,” as the Grammys are called.

Brooke’s Candy Co. operates out of a small portion of a 1900s plantation-style house on Maple Street in Dana, a Mayberry-esque town of about 600. Most of the house, which is where Brooke grew up, is still used as living space by her parents, Donna and Kent Thompson. Only one small room in the front of the house serves as a retail shop for the business. The candy is made in a kitchen in the back of the house.

Asked which stars she hopes enjoy her almond toffee, Schmidt admitted she’s not really up on the current music scene. Mainly, she’s just happy to have a chance to spread the word about her product, she said. The candy is provided free in exchange for the publicity, Schmidt said.

Brooke’s Candy is made from all-natural ingredients and is certified gluten-free. Schmidt and her sister, Dana Vicars, and their mom spent many hours studying and trying different chocolates from around the world before deciding, in 2004, to use a special kind of Belgian chocolate in their candy. Their toffee is also unique in some of its ingredients, including almond. It is also crunchy instead of gooey, Schmidt said.

“We knew we had to do something different,” she said.

Brooke’s Candy is available at a few locations outside the retail shop in Dana. Baesler’s Market in Terre Haute, for example, sells the chocolate-covered almond toffee and several of the Brooke’s gluten-free baking mixes, including banana bread, carrot cake, chocolate chip cookie and brownie mix.

Because each piece of candy is currently made by hand, Schmidt has had to turn down some large orders. Soon, however, the company will be expanding into a new “factory,” a long building placed next door to the old home, where an enrober machine (think Lucy and Ethel on “I Love Lucy") will allow production to increase dramatically. Brooke’s currently uses a small, countertop 2-gallon pot to mix chocolate. The new factory features a kettle that, with a 30-pound capacity alongside the enrober, will automatically apply toppings to individual toffee pieces and otherwise help in the production process.

“I’m excited” about the new equipment, Schmidt said. It will allow her business to finally grow. She also plans to relocate the tiny retail shop to the new building, which was once part of the former Newport U.S. Army chemical weapons depot and was moved to Dana. The building seems brand new and - Schmidt adds, smiling - was never used to store VX nerve agent.

Brooke’s Candy Co. sells a wide variety of treats including fudge, toffee, truffles, mints, turtles, sea salt caramels and other sweets. But the old standby is the toffee, Schmidt said. That was her first product, and it’s still the most popular item.

“It’s always the toffee that everyone goes back to,” Schmidt said. Soon, some of the music industry’s biggest stars may join the list of folks who think Dana, Ind., is home to some of the best candy around.

Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com




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