Hometown Candy Entrepreneur Works Hard for the Butter and Chocolate
The Toffee Store, which has gained a following around town, was borne of one woman's boredom -- and motivation.
Heidi Paterson is the type of person who needs to keep busy.
That's why, after two years spent looking for a new job, she found herself organizing the cans in her cupboard. Bored and motivated, she started making toffee. It was Christmas, and she wanted to give candy to her family and friends.
They ate it up -- literally -- and encouraged the 46-year-old Oakland Township woman to start selling her buttery, chocolatey confections. The Toffee Store was born Jan. 17, and now Paterson churns out 50 to 70 pounds a week, which she sells at several locations in downtown Rochester and through her website.
"It's really taken off," she said. "I'm working harder than I ever have, usually from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. But I love it."
Paterson has years of experience in human resources, but like so many workers, she, too, became a victim of layoffs in a shrinking economy. Now, she's putting her knowledge to work for her business, which she sees growing into a franchise one day.
"I'm perfectly qualified for this," she said.
Paterson said it took months to perfect her recipe, and she uses only ingredients from Michigan suppliers: butter from Calder Dairy, chocolates from Sanders Candy, Pioneer Sugar, Germack Pistachio Co. nuts and vanilla from Gordon Food Service.
Oddly enough, Paterson is a diabetic and has to limit herself to one piece of candy a day.
"Heath bars were always my favorite, though," she said.
Paterson works a few hours a week at the Village Cafe in Goodison in exchange for use of its kitchen. She also sells her wares in the restaurant, as well as at the Give Thanks Bakery and Cafe, Lytle Pharmacy and the Downtown Rochester Farmers' Market.
She said her business is built on word-of-mouth and her willingness to hand out pounds and pounds of samples. Most people who try her toffee can't resist buying a piece -- or two.
"You can indulge yourself without feeling like you are making a car payment," she said.
Renee Ries, who owns the Village Cafe, said Paterson is one of the most dedicated and hard-working people she knows.
"And she makes darn good toffee," she said.