By Deb Kelly
DANA — In a little shop in a quiet corner of the Wabash Valley, the delectable smells of fudge and caramel, mint and espresso, waft through a 100-year-old home where two women are realizing an entrepreneur’s dream.
Brooke Schmidt and her mother, Donna Thompson, co-owners of Brooke’s Candy Co. in Dana, have seen their business triple in the past year, as both their online and storefront presences have captured the attention of chocolate lovers far and wide.
The business started with a small space at Dimestore Antiques in Clinton, where Thompson and Schmidt sold hand-made candies for about three years before deciding to give Brooke’s Candy Co. a home of its own.
In August 2007, the chocolatiers opened their retail location on Maple Street in Dana, operating out of the renovated front of the 1900-era plantation-style home where Thompson and her husband, Kent Thompson, have lived since 1984.
Kent Thompson did much of the renovation, transforming the old home into a landmark in Dana.
Before settling on the town of about 700 for the location of their retail business, Schmidt said they considered other small towns, including Rockville.
But Schmidt said she wants to see Dana grow and thrive again.
“Mom and Dad have always lived here,” she said. Since Schmidt and her husband Doug moved back to Dana in 2002, the town has struggled.
“There used to be a soda shop, and it was just a really neat little town,” Schmidt said. “We’ve seen so many buildings fall down or be lost — there was the fire — there’s just nothing left.”
Schmidt said she decided she wasn’t in a big hurry; she and her husband are raising sons Derek, 4, and Damien, 6, and she hopes to get both of them in school before she goes full-time.
Schmidt’s history with candy-making goes back to her childhood, she said.
“Mom started out being the fudge-maker and I was the candy-maker,” Schmidt said. “Mom always let us mess around in the kitchen, and I like chocolate.”
Thompson chimed in, “She’d put Cheerios and marshmallow cream and chocolate chips and stir that up when she was little.”
Schmidt, laughing at the memory, said that when she was 14, she made mints for her sister’s wedding and then she started making chocolate peanut-butter buckeye candies to sell at the Covered Bridge Festival when she was 16.
“I’ve always liked to make candy,” she said.
From those early days of chocolate chips and peanut-butter, Schmidt has become a chocolate connoisseur. For her business, she wanted the best chocolate, and so she began doing research, ordering chocolate from around the world to find the taste she wanted.
Finally, she settled on Belgian chocolate from Wieze, Belgium. She orders the imported chocolate in chip form, which she then tempers and molds into her various treats.
The chocolate is made with no preservatives, oils, animal fats or waxes, Schmidt said.
“Once you get used to eating it you won’t want anything else,” Thompson said.
From mint meltaways, truffles, peanut clusters, turtles, toffee and other specialty items, the candy-makers’ delicacies have caught the attention of several state and local entities.
Brooke’s Candy Co. was chosen to be one of 25 Hoosier chocolatiers to be featured during the months of November and December at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis. Schmidt will be giving demonstrations and selling her wares at the museum from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Sunday during the Day of Decadence event at the museum. She will be featured there again Dec. 7. For more information, visit the Indiana State Museum’s Web site at www.indianamuseum.org.
In addition, the candy company was highlighted in the November issue of Illiana Lifestyles.
They were also recognized recently with the Indiana Artisan seal, an honor bestowed on Hoosier artisans, after their products were juried in an exhibition. The seal is part of a new program through the Indiana Arts Commission and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, meant to raise awareness about the availability of hand-crafted products made in Indiana.
Schmidt said her hope is that her chocolate treats can help put Dana back on the map.
Deb Kelly can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check it out
• Brooke’s Candy Company is at 247 Maple St. in Dana.
• Call (765) 665-3646 for information.
• They are also online at www.brookescandyco.com.
• There will be a Christmas Open House at the Dana shop on Dec. 5 and 6, where those attending can enjoy free samples of chocolates, fudge and gourmet coffees.
• Extended hours through the holiday season are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, starting this Wednesday.
• Brooke Schmidt will be featured at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday during the Day of Decadence, where 25 culinary and specialty chocolatiers will be providing demonstrations, shopping, and entertainment. She will again be providing demonstrations at the museum from noon to 4:30 p.m Sunday, Dec. 7.