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Candymakers have sweet plans for Port Royal homeplace

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Few memorials are as sweet as the one dedicated to the late Franklin “Hoss” Sanders, the tobacco farmer and deputy sheriff from Port Royal and his wife Linda.

The family got together after Sanders died in January to discuss what should be done with the Port Royal farm after their parents left the property to the three siblings, explained Matt Sanders and his fiancée Jacqueline Walton.

Reminiscing about Hoss Sanders’ fondness for homemade caramels led his loved ones to create a new business dedicated to his memory — Bluegrass Candy Mountain.

As a child, Matt has fond memories of playing in his father’s place of work — the Henry County Courthouse. Hoss also grew tobacco on Sander’s Farm in Port Royal.

“He was a really good guy,” Matt said about his father. “He would always help anybody out. He was very outgoing very helpful. That’s how he got into being a deputy sheriff.”

The new business is also a tribute to mother Linda. Sanders’ love of food originated with all the good cooks he knew in Port Royal, starting with his mother.

“Jackie and I have always loved cooking, dabbling in food, sugar and baking,” Matt said. 

All the way back to their first batch of holiday candy about a decade ago, Sanders and Walton’s caramels have always received good reviews.

Having received inspiration from his parents and family and support from friends, members of the Sanders family recently decided to change careers from a graphic designer to a full-time candy maker.

“It really started honestly because with Christmas and stuff my dad was the most impossible person to shop for, but he loved sweets,” Matt said.

So Sanders and Walton started tinkering with some caramel recipes until they had a mix they were satisfied with.

“So we made a batch of caramel and gave it to my brother and sister and Dad for Christmas, and they absolutely loved it,” Matt recalled. “It was more or less if we showed up to a holiday without [the candy], people were not very happy about it.”

Giving caramel became a yearly event for Sanders and Walton. 

Now, Walton and Sanders, his brother Tim and wife Kathy and sister Joy Hitchcock have decided they will keep the candy-making tradition going, with plans to produce it com mercially in their homeplace.

 “That’s why we want to get set up at the farmhouse because our heart really does lie in Henry County,” Matt said. “Our parents and our community has inspired what we do.”

In the 10 years since they introduced their own sweets, the cooks experimented with lots of different flavors, including lemon, chocolate, butter rum, butter scotch, maple, mocha, vanilla and cinnamon caramels; Rue’s hearts (lemon caramels covered in white chocolate), a Modjeska (a confection created in Louisville as a tribute to a famous stage actress), bourbon candy and potato candy. 

The candy company also plans to have seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice and egg nog.

After the family gathered at the farmhouse and agreed on the idea, they’ve been working together and learning something every day.

They do their own cooking, wrapping, packaging and most every step in the process, except make the boxes. Sanders’ experience as a graphic designer and Walton’s as a programmer comes in handy in producing and selling this new product. 

The family received all their permits and licenses June 6 and made Campbellsburg Day their public roll out. It didn’t take long for them to get repeat orders from buyers they met that day.

For just starting the business, orders have been higher than they expected, Walton said. “We’re not Hershey’s yet, but you know…” she joked.

“Kathy, her favorite line to tell everybody is there’s more than one Sanders with a secret recipe in Kentucky,” Matt said, referring to how his sister-in-law jokes about the Colonel.

Bluegrass Candy Mountain sells on the Internet at www.bluegrasscandymountain.com and have a Facebook page, but they love getting out into the community. That way, the family members can see the look on their customers’ faces when they try their confections.

People want the family to succeed so much, many have offered their help, Sanders and Walton said. For example, they struck up a friendship with the owners of Frascelli’s New York Deli and Pizza in Buckner, who offered the family their kitchen to make their candy until their place in Port Royal is ready.

“We’ve just been blessed by so many people and so many things just falling into place so I assume this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” Matt Sanders said. “We just followed the path that’s opened to us and this is where it led us”

Looking ahead, member of Kentucky Proud, the family would like to tap into the Bourbon Trail. Sanders said he would love to have a storefront to sell their product one day.

For more information about Bluegrass Candy Mountain, call 844-KYCANDY.