Come along with Country Life and get a look behind the scenes at one of our favorite vendors: family-owned Arnold’s Candies. This small northeastern Ohio company makes Sugar Puffs, Butter Mints, and the thinnest, tastiest nut brittles ever: we’re pleased that we can share these wonderful treats with you!
Vice-President and partner Kyle Roberson took us into the place where the magic happens–the candy production room. In the big, spanking-clean space, owner and president/partner Greg Dauphin, brothers Paul and Shawn Freeder, and Tommy Bennett make workday ingredients like sugar, cream of tartar and water into out-of-this-world confections.
Roberson, who left his job with a large international brewing company a couple of years back to help his high school buddy (and former banker) Dauphin run the candy factory, was proud to show off a business founded by Ted Arnold sixty years ago, a business that runs on candy equipment that dates back to the late 1800s.
It’s a business that’s staying true to a family-owned tradition. “Greg’s my brother-in-law, and Paul and Shawn are Ted Arnold’s grandsons. The guys, Paul and Shawn, been here longer than we have. We bought the business from Ted two years ago in April.” Quality control and maintenance are handled by Tommy Bennett, who had Roberson’s uncle as an art teacher in high school. Now the guy with a BA in fine arts keeps the century-old machines running and coaxes more cool air than one would think is possible from the air handling system, which is a pretty fine art in itself.
Paul Freeder was a high schooler when he started started making candy with his grandfather, Ted Arnold. “I’ve been working here eight years. I started out making puffs. It took me four years to get the brittles right.” Shawn, Paul’s younger (and quieter!) brother also worked part-time during high school.
Watching the two work with Dauphin to set up the 80+ pounds of Sugar Puff candy base, make Sugar Puff candy stripes, and later, make brittle, is like watching athletes who have played together for years. Each is always in the right place, at the right time, and in the end, there’s beautifully made candy everywhere.
When Dauphin and Roberson bought the business, there were changes and updates to be made. A top-to-bottom inventory and organization took six months.
Now, with a few new-to-them pieces of equipment, training from Ted Arnold, and the experience from the Freeder brothers as support, Arnold’s Candies is revitalized and moving into a new role as a local candy supplier to retailers like Lehman’s.
The candymaking process is hard, hands-on work, but the Arnold’s Candies crew does it right, every day.
Paul Freeder says, “You look at our puffs, and you can tell they’re not made by machine. You can tell we put the stripes on by hand.”
He hesitates a moment, and his brother Shawn laughs, and says, “It goes on the other side, dude!”
To Country Life, Shawn says, “We have to pay attention when we do this, we can’t be chatting away, like some people! Or we’ll get the stripe pattern wrong.” It’s obvious, although he’s addressing CL staff, he’s really poking gentle fun at his older brother.
Later in the visit, it’s fascinating to watch Paul Freeder flip air through a batch of brittle as if it weighed no more than a bed sheet, with brother Shawn “pulling corners”. First, they pour a puddle of boiling sugar and steaming hot cashews onto the cooling table. Using just their hands and a stainless steel bar, they pull that puddle into 4 foot by 10 foot sheet of warm nutty goodness, stretched more thinly than a pane of window glass. That’s an Arnold’s trademark–the thinnest, freshest brittle, made by hand.
“Nobody makes brittle like Paul and Sean do,” said Roberson. “Paul, Sean and Tommy and their skills are a major part of our team. We’re all dedicated to doing the best job every day.”
“There’s so much interest in eating well now, eating locally. And people are careful about what they eat. We don’t use any preservatives or additives, just the best sugars and nuts we can find. Everything is top notch, and people appreciate that. Our candy’s affordable, and it’s something people have loved for years,” said Roberson.