[Spotlight] From bondsman to candy man
“This store doesn’t have a business card yet,” said Dan Weatherington the week after his Gate City Candy Company had its April 1 soft opening at 529 S. Elm St. in Greensboro. “So, here’s the one for my bail bond company.”
Weatherington, who also owns Gate City Bail Bonds at 1325 S. Eugene St., has long dreamed of opening an old-fashioned candy store.
“I’ve been a bondsman for about eight years,” he told me on my next visit. “That industry’s been on a downward spiral and is battling legislation aimed at putting it out of business. So about four years ago, I started thinking about doing something else.”
Weatherington, a military veteran who’s also worked as a firefighter, said that writing up business plans was initially daunting, due to his lack of both retail experience and formal training. “But I went to the library and read a bunch of books, researched online, jumped through some bureaucratic hoops, and got it done.”
When Weatherington was growing up in Goldsboro, his family took many trips to the Blue Ridge mountains, “where I loved stopping at old-fashioned candy stores.” That’s how he discovered his lifelong love of peanut butter fudge. “It’s the creamiest. I could eat it all day long.”
One of the first places he ever had it was at Nancy’s Candy Company on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, less than 20 miles from his mother’s hometown of Patrick Springs. Founded by Nancy Galli in 1987 as Nancy’s Homemade Fudge, the once-tiny store and company quickly achieved recognition for its signature peanut butter fudge cup, expanded and rebranded in 1998, and in 2009 added a line of signature truffles.
When Weatherington decided to open a candy store of his own, he began sampling chocolate from a variety of suppliers. “I’ve literally in the last four years traveled from coast to coast as a bail bondsman, and we didn’t pass a candy store without going in and trying what they had and testing it out.”
He said he never found any he liked as much as Nancy’s. “And her products are just so beautiful, especially the truffles. They’re like works of art. I kept going back and forth, trying to figure out who my supplier should be, and I kept reverting back to Nancy’s because their truffles are just beautiful and the taste is amazing. So, she’s my supplier.”
I tried a raspberry truffle. It was wonderful. Weatherington sells 24 flavors of truffles, including bacon, tiramisu, jalapeno, Irish crème and Jack Daniels; and 14 flavors of fudge, including salted caramel, cookies-n-cream, his beloved peanut butter, and birthday cake. The last seemed particularly popular with the customers I saw sampling it. There’s also chocolate-covered pretzels and Graham crackers, chocolate bark, cordials, caramels and creams. His bins are stocked with 20 flavors of taffy, 24 flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans, 30 flavors of M&Ms, and assorted gummies, sours and other retro-style candy such as Mary Janes and Whirly Pops. He said he will be adding an entire room, “that area behind the back curtain there,” of locally-made products very soon.
He also sells root beer, ginger ale, Nehi, and a variety of novelty sodas. He promised that he’ll be stocking my hard-to-get favorite, Moxie, the classic brand that between the world wars was as popular as Coke and Pepsi.
Gate City Candy Company is open 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10-8 Monday through Friday and 12-6 on Sundays. Its official grand opening is planned for Saturday, May 4.