Tuckerman’s sells candy and candles in Middleport Ohio. Feeling like a kid in a candy store is easy when you’re in a candy store and haven’t grown up. This is to say, that Tuckerman’s on Lincoln, a Middleport institution, makes you feel like you’ve gone home to a place that never really existed. The store is unique to the area. You can find a cornucopia of colors & combinations: hot pinks, neon greens, root beer browns, and bright whites; old style bottled root beer, Amish chocolate, and Turkish taffy. My personal favorite was the $3 box of candy – you can stuff it with as much candy as you can (and still close the lid). After I had filled mine, Amy explained that this is often a competition between siblings – whoever fills the box with the most candy wins. After eating all my candy, I wish I had played this game too.

Amy Blake, the owner and proprietor, has strong roots in the community. When I asked her where the name ‘Tuckerman’s’ came from, she told me that Tuckerman’s used to be a neighborhood grocery store that operated out of that location. Too young to experience it herself, Amy explained that her family has fond memories of the store and they recall similar candy being sold in the location as kids. So despite being on Lincoln Street, the building carries with it strong attachments to the past and ties to the Middleport community.

Amy explained that she has not spent her life in Middleport, she has taken a winding road to find her home again. For many years she had a connection to candy as a retail manager for Lindt Chocolate. She was in charge of seven different stores in the Boston area, so had to learn the best ways to market, display, and sell her product: she learned that false fronting, arrangement, and a strong inventory control system allow her to keep to her margins, avoid expired goods, and promote seasonal selections. Just as Amy returned to her roots in Middleport, candy returned to Tuckerman’s; both, perhaps, better for it.

While I was in the store, a local resident of Middleport walked in the door. Amy knew who he was and just what he wanted – an Amish made chocolate covered caramel. Unfortunately for me, I had been eyeing that same piece of candy. Developing these relationships with community members has been key to her success. Amy has also collaborated with several small businesses to increase her sales and branding efforts.

One collaboration comes with her work with Tim Martin, proprietor of Red Tail Design. Another client of ACEnet, Tim provides high quality designs to several businesses and government agencies in our area. Tim designed the logo and signage for Amy Blake’s 2nd Avenue Candle. By working with Tim, Amy is able to create consistent branding across all her products, it looks clean, sophisticated, and professional: perhaps mirroring Amy herself.

If candy doesn’t sell you on a trip to Tuckerman’s, the candles should seal the deal. Amy’s expertise with candles is entirely self-taught. She explained that she found a hobby that quickly turned into a business, for she once started making candles for her friends, she realized that there was an opportunity in the community. Thankfully, Amy’s candles are different from the candle makers of the time of Middleport’s founding in the 1820s. At that time candles created light, in this time, candles create a mood.

Scents, like candy, are limited only by the imagination and chemistry. She carries a wide variety of interesting scents – from driftwood to barnwood, from ‘sun tan lotion’ to ‘day at the spa,’ you can create a variety of moods and scenes with these unique candles. In fact, she showed me one of her newest, a Barber Shop scent, for those of us who grew up with that smell of Old Spice aftershave. If these seem a little strange to you, know that you can also find traditional scents like lavender, cucumber, and coconut. Finally, for those that care about avoiding petroleum and phthalate, rest assured knowing her candles are cotton wicked, soy based, and phthalate-free.

2nd Avenue Candles and Tuckerman’s are two different businesses housed in the same building. The front of the store contains all the candy, and the back of the store contains the candles. Amy explained that there was no way to combine them, that they needed distinct rooms. She remodeled the store so that classes and production could happen in the back, while candy sales could happen in the front. The split works well; not distracted by delicious treats, community members can attend workshops: recently she hosted a Make-Up 101 class, and facilitated a candle making event.

As you ascend the rainbow steps (painted by local artists) to Tuckerman’s, know that you’ll be supporting a business run by someone who believes in the future of Middleport: Amy thinks economic development and art will change the community. When Tuckerman’s was located in Pomeroy, for a brief stint during the remodel, Amy was able to sell art on consignment from many local artists. She saw local artists rethink their value as they gained confidence selling in a public place to local residents. Unfortunately consignment sales are not a possibility in her Middleport store due to limited retail space, but Amy has proven that Meigs County has a creative economy that is worth nurturing.

Artists need support, and when nurtured and supported, drive business development and tourism. ACEnet is currently exploring the possibility of bringing creative place making to the Pomeroy/Middleport area, to support exactly these needs.

Community Update by ACEnet Microenterprise Program Trainer, Kyle Verge