Sunday Profile: Lynda Brent brings candy to local shops and beyond
People don’t really contemplate their chocolates — they eat them.
If they took time to check the label on the back in area candy stores, in many cases they’d find that their tasty treat is the handiwork of Lynda Brent, owner of the West Glenwood wholesale supplier Colorado Candies.
Brent has been making turtles, truffles, caramels, molded chocolates and even white chocolate-dipped dog bones out of her home since 2001 and selling to retailers all along the valley — as well as across the world.
“I ship from Alaska to New York,” she said. “I have shipped to Japan. I have shipped to Canada. I’ve got product going out to Spain on Monday. We ship all over.”
Locally, Brent’s chocolates are stocked at Grand Avenue Sweets, The Chocolate Moose, Sweet Adventures, the Valley View Hospital gift shop, An Exquisite Design, Speckled Feather Mercantile and Susan’s Flowers, as well as shops in Eagle, Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen and Denver.
Brent has worked with food her whole life. She owned a bakery in Eagle when she was in her 20s, and her first job was in the food industry.
“I just love it,” she said. “I love working with stuff that people like to eat.”
Before opening Colorado Candies in 2001, Brent and her family owned a retail store in Beaver Creek where they sold chocolates. The supplier they used started charging more, so they switched to a company out of Denver that couldn’t keep up with the shop’s demands.
“I looked at my sister and my dad, and I said, ‘I can do this. I know I can,’” Brent said. “I had no concept, no idea what chocolates meant,” she laughed.
With no real knowledge of how to make chocolate, Brent started to experiment on her kitchen stove, melting chocolate, throwing nuts in — and none of it turned out.
LESSONS IN CHOCOLATE
“I didn’t know about tempering, I didn’t know that chocolate is very temperature sensitive,” she said. “I just couldn’t get it to turn out.”
Brent didn’t give up so easily, though. She sought out a woman on the East Coast who gave lessons on how to make chocolates. Brent flew out with her 1-year-old daughter and did a week’s worth of private lessons.
“Then I came home, bought my first kettle and just slowly built my business from there,” she said.
Colorado Candies is not a retail shop. It’s not open for the public to come up to her door and purchase candy in small quantities.
“The county was fairly strict when they did the approval that we don’t have people come to the house,” Brent said. “You have to be a retail store in order to buy from us. And I do free deliveries in town just to prevent people from being here to pick up product.”
Those deliveries make it especially easy on stores to keep their shelves full of goodies.
Kathy Fangman, owner of the 2-year-old shop Grand Avenue Sweets, said Brent has been a big help to her in more ways than one.
“She’s a very sweet and helpful person,” Fangman said. “She actually had a bakery and sweet shop before, so she’s been very helpful and insightful. And she’s been in Glenwood for years, so she knows the area and is very knowledgeable about the chocolates, about the fudge and about the climate and everything. And we can keep it fresh — she’s very quick, and she does deliveries. We’re lucky to have her here in Glenwood, that’s for sure.”
WORKING AT HOME
Looking at Colorado Candies from the outside, you’d never know there’s a kitchen full of five to 10 busy candy-makers inside. That’s because Brent runs the operation out of her house.
“I couldn’t afford rent around here, and I couldn’t afford to buy a building, so we just added onto our home and got all the approvals that were necessary,” Brent said.
The process, she said, was huge. She got approval from the county, emptied her living room, pulled all the walls out, installed a sink and created the commercial kitchen in line with health department codes. But even that was only enough for so long.
“When I outgrew this small space, we did a huge expansion of my home and added literally double the size of my home for my commercial kitchen,” Brent said. “Because I was in the county, I had less roadblocks than if I had been in the city limits. Had I been in the city limits, I would not have been able to do this.”
Brent said one of her favorite things about owning the business is being able to make her own hours.
“When I started this, my daughter was 1 years old; she’s now 17,” Brent said. “My son is 20. And they’ve grown up with this. Mom can get off to run to the school and go see what they’re doing at school. My employees love coming at 6 o’clock in the morning, and they’re done by 3 when their kids are out of school.”
But what’s kept her in the industry for decades is pretty simple: She loves chocolate.
“I like everything about chocolate, except I’m not a big chocolate eater anymore,” she said with a laugh. “I think pretty much everybody in here is burned out on sampling chocolate and seeing what it tastes like. But we love to see people’s reaction when they taste our chocolate.”
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