Sweet, Sweet Destiny: David Shalloway, C-ville Candy
WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN you mix two parts Willy Wonka enthusiasm with one part Andy Griffith gentle folksiness and one part MacGyver can-create-anything-from-anything-ness?
You get David “Candyman” Shalloway, the force behind the sweets-company-that-could, C-ville Candy. You know, those charming little cellophane bags with the retro orange-and-white-striped labels? Full of nut-studded chocolate barks, honey-infused brittles, or whimsical sprinkle-covered chocolate drops.
Today there’s a damp chill outside, but the aromas of caramelizing sugar and melting chocolate inside Shalloway’s new Fluvanna County facility—right beside his home—conjure a soul-satisfying warmth. Every element of the 1,000-foot space, from the chocolate-tempering station to the soon-to-be-installed candy hook to the packaging corner, is deliberately situated for maximum efficiency and likely involved dozens of man hours on the front end. Hours Shalloway himself spent restoring, painting, rewiring, or otherwise redoing the umpteen pieces of antique candymaking equipment. All in all, it took him about a decade to collect the gadgetry, some of which dates as far back as the 1860s. And he’s still got ambitions for more restorations, more old-fashioned ingenuity…and even more flavors.
“There is real magic to having a candy factory,” says Shalloway, as he fastens the bottom button on a crisp white chef’s coat, which he dons today to break up and bag his wildly popular Almond-Toffee Chocolate Bark (lest you think the sizes and shapes of the pieces are random, they are not).
“When I first started, I had doubts this was the best thing to do,” he goes on. “I wondered if I should be making health food instead. But then one day, I noticed a number of customers who were excited and smiling. The children in them came out.”
That sweets-induced fountain of youth charmed Shalloway right into the career full-time—he left his day job only about a year ago, once he was able to determine C-ville Candy would be a viable business.
A kid-at-heart himself, Shalloway has plans to place a miniature door on the exterior of the building—for the Oompa Loompas, of course—and to open the factory (and eventually a candymaking museum) to the public by appointment, so lovers of his candy can take it all in Willy Wonka–style.
Of the dozens of pieces of equipment in the workshop today, at least 70 percent Shalloway restored, refurbished, or designed himself. Take the custom scoop that he uses to measure and bag the chocolate bark; it has a low profile, a flat base, and a width the precise size of the cellophane bags with which he works. Genius.
For Shalloway, there’s also an academic fascination with the downright American-ness of candymaking. He can tell you about the U.S. hotspots of the craft (Pennsylvania is historically huge), and is driven by this knowledge to revive timeless old-fashioned flavors and styles. Coming sometime soon will be hard candies, in such combinations as rhubarb-and-cream or honey, which will be paired with traditional Virginia flavors like apple, hard cider, or wine.
“It’s like I had to make candy,” says Shalloway, who is presently a one-man-show, but who plans to hire a few helpers in the coming months. “Everything I’ve done has taken me to this place.”
And by “everything,” he means everything: junk shop owner (learned how to find old equipment), fireworks designer (“how to arrange the order of sensations to make them most pleasurable”), manufacturing (developed an understanding of manufacturing processes and fixing machinery).
It’s clear that this lifetime of training has paid off. C-ville candies are popular at retail shops around the area, and also are a favorite as wedding favors and corporate gifts. Think Salted Almond Bark, Toffee for Coffee (which, as its name implies, pairs well with a cup of java), and a variety of honey brittles, all made with natural ingredients (and local when possible).
“This factory is hard work, but it makes me happy,” says Shalloway, making his way to the packaging station to affix the labels. “There are an endless number of puzzles to figure out, endless types of candy to make. And every day I see the beautiful old machines that are fixed up and working again. I can see the history in them—and the future too.”