Richard's Candy Company is a True Labor of Love
On this day in late October, the weather is crisp and cool for the first time all season. It’s 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and the weak, watery sunlight filtering over the booths at the downtown Sarasota Farmers’ Market hasn’t yet fully banished the brisk chill in the air.
It’s an exceptionally beautiful day, and I am enjoying it with an exceptionally wonderful person: Richard Terpstra, the owner and operator of Richard’s Candy Co. Richard’s Candy Co. is an incredible example of something wonderful and magical emerging from tragedy. In June 2008, Richard’s brother Tom passed away unexpectedly from an aggressive form of brain cancer.
Richard was still grieving several months later when out of nowhere one day he found himself craving peanut butter fudge, which had been a favorite treat of his brother’s.
Richard went online and downloaded three recipes, but none of them tasted like the old-fashioned traditional fudge of his childhood. So he began experimenting with ratios, gradually cutting down the sugar and increasing the peanut butter until he had found the perfect balance. He began giving out samples made from this recipe in a friend’s deli, and they instantly became a hit. Suddenly, Richard’s confectionary skills were in demand—enough that a new business was born.
In the intervening years, Richard has significantly expanded his repertoire. Not only does he make over 120 flavors of traditional fudge (many of which are inspired by customer requests), he also crafts delectable vegan, sugar-free, and raw options. Richard makes each batch himself using seasonal and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, and his fudge is free of any unnatural preservatives. He has fine-tuned each recipe until he’s perfectly happy with the result, whether it’s one of his more straightforward flavors (like chocolate walnut) or one of his more adventurous experiments (like the unparalleled Pineapple Firecracker).
This meticulous attention to detail pays off. Over the course of an hour I watch several dairy-sensitive individuals sample his vegan options and light up when the amazing flavor hits their palates: In fact, the only thing greater than their delight at having found such a decadent and delicious vegan treat is Richard’s obvious joy in providing it to them. One diabetic customer is clearly skeptical that the sugar-free option is even worth sampling but gives it a try anyway. His whole face softens and he immediately hands over enough money for two full-sized portions.
Richard Terpstra’s business started as a loving tribute to his brother Tom, and he continues to honor that inspiration by donating proceeds from each event he does to cancer research. But Richard’s Candy Co. is more than a memorial. It’s a true labor of love, from the care Richard puts into his product to the affection he has for his customers. You can order products from his website, but it’s well worth making the pilgrimage to visit him at any of the numerous farmers’ markets he regularly attends in Sarasota, Englewood, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Anna Maria. Richard’s fudge is incredibly tasty, but it’s the man behind the confection who makes it a truly magical experience.
Richard’s Candy Company: 941-809-3225; www.richardscandycompany.com