Faithful customers help keep candy shop crew goingSep 02, 2020 03:06PM ● By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones
C. Kay Cummings Candies in Millcreek currently offers 62 flavors of chocolate sweets. (Photo courtesy Marilyn Oakey)
By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones | [email protected]
Marilyn Oakey, manager of C. Kay Cummings Candies in Millcreek is doing a lot of candy making these days. Along with her husband, son, and one employee working in the store, they are “doing their best” to keep up with the orders.
Typically, a 15 to 22 crew base, the candy company is now down to three candy makers, and it’s causing more than a little stress.
Oakey, who cannot speak with customers directly because of her autoimmune disease, said that the orders are still coming in, but that it’s difficult to get them filled. During Easter especially, she said she felt as if her “hand was ready to fall off,” but she kept on going.
“Mother’s Day was an absolute nightmare,” she said. “It was like Valentine’s Day. Customers were lined up clear out the door.”
Still, Oakey said, “She loves it.”
Oakey, who is used to speaking with customers as they enter the store, said being in the back room is difficult. “I feel bad I can’t talk to them. I wave to them at the back.”
She not only loves her customers; Oakey enjoys being creative with chocolates. “It’s new and exciting, and I love the freedom that comes with it. I can create my own.”
The Oakey family has been operating the Cummings candy business and its chocolate recipes since 1999, when it was bought by Anne and Marion D. "Buzz" Woods. Following her husband's death in 2017, Anne and her children have continued to own the business.
The Oakey family have developed their own flavors and added to the original list. Each “high-end” chocolate is filled with the “highest ingredients” and each is “hand-dipped.”
At 65, Oakey can still carry the heavy loaded mixing bowls, and she and her family still manage to create the 62 flavors the candy store is famous for. Currently, their “skeleton crew” is focused on creating what the customers want. Still, what is popular changes from day to day, and they can’t count on what may be popular tomorrow, she said.
Will it be a rum flavor? Caramels? Fruit creams?
“Usually, it’s the one flavor we’re out of,” Oakey said. “That’s the one everyone wants. It’s like the customer has this magnet that says, ‘What are they out of?’ That’s what I’ll ask for today.”
“It is a lot of hard work,” she said.
When COVID-19 hit, the company laid everyone off. Now it’s about gathering them back in. Oakey is hopeful many previous employees will want to come back and that there will be additional interest from others looking for work.
She is determined not to give up.
“We love our customers,” she said. “They are committed to us. Some of them come every day.”
Currently, the small team is “gearing up for Christmas, but I don’t know how we're going to make it,” she said. Before that, Halloween will be here and Cummings Candies will focus on the black “Poison Apple,” an apple “to die for,” Oakey said.
The candy store offers curbside and store pickup as well as online purchases and next day shipping.
They continue to ship across the country, though their orders have slimmed some.
Because cruise lines, restaurants, and hotels are not buying, as usual, this side of the business has died, Oakey said. “But we’re keeping our fingers crossed.”
C. Kay Cummings Candies is located at 2057 E. 3300 South. Their current hours are Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Order online at www.finecandies.com.