Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Love of family is a recipe for success
JACKSON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Several times a year, Dena's Specialty Candy in Jackson opens its doors to customers craving hand-crafted treats. Of course, that includes Valentine's Day, and this year, they added something special to spread the love.
"I'm making our homemade nonpareils," said owner, Dena Prange, leaning over a tray of the tiny sugar balls.
Prange puts a lot of patience into her work.
"Drop by drop," she said, dropping chocolate onto the tray.
And a lot of time, too.
"I could probably do about six trays like this," she said. "Then I would need a break.
For weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, she's handcrafting hundreds of different sweet treats.
"This is where all the magic happens," she said with a laugh.
By this, she means the commercial kitchen in her basement, where she's been running Dena's Specialty Candy for more than 20 years.
"I just started making turtles upstairs with my little tempering machine. Selling it to family and friends," she remembered.
It grew from there. Dena's now creates more than 250 different kinds of candy during the year.
"We like to keep special things for the different holidays then it gives people something to look forward to," Prange said.
She gets a lot of help from dedicated staff, like Scott Weiss.
"The multi-tasker he is, he can just do four things at once," she said.
That's what it takes to make sure everything made here in the kitchen is ready for the shelves upstairs, which is her living room transformed to a candy shop for the holiday.
"It's got these new chocolate crispers that we put on the back. They are, it's so good," she said, pointing out a new product.
From chocolate bars to fairy food, and this year something new.
"These are his homemade fortune cookies that we are now doing," Prange said, pointing out the new product.
"Half the challenge of this job is really trying to figure out which process works," Weiss said, banging a cookie sheet on the counter downstairs.
Weiss, an engineer by trade, turned his attention to romantic fortune cookies.
"I tested about 20 different ones," he said of finding a good recipe.
"So, you fold it, and holding it on both ends, bend it," he said, showing how the cookies are shaped.
To get the recipe just right.
"This is my dream job. Doing this is perfect for my skill set and what I love to do," he said.
Each cookie -- folded with a sweet or saucy note.
"Love recognizes no barriers. From Maya Angelou," he read from one of the fortunes.
Weiss said his cookies are a vast improvement over the store-bought ones.
"The ones we make are real cookies. It's more like a sugar cookie," he explained.
Each one dipped in chocolate and topped with sprinkles, making up to 150 at a time, to keep up with demand.
"The first woman that came in bought all 50. So, it's like, Scott! We're out of fortune cookies! Make some more," he said with a laugh.
His skills are not lost on Prange.
"He's so organized. So, he's really changed the way we do a lot of stuff here now," Prange said.
You could call Weiss head baker.
"Dena, what's my title," he called out to her during our interview, finishing with, "They just call me brother."
That's right, these two are siblings. Combining their talents -- both technical and creative.
"So, it's exciting for me. And I just love what I do," he said.
Prange, happy to turn the kitchen over to her brother.
"Yeah, I don't think it's my kitchen anymore! I call it his kitchen. There's very little I do in there now because he does a lot of that stuff now," she admitted.
But there's still plenty to do.
The staff will soon have to start getting ready for Easter.
"This year we should be doing it now, but we haven't had time," Prange said of the rush to get ready for Valentine's Day. "Our show for Easter will be like the last 10 days of March because Easter this year is early again."
This sister and brother duo working together -- with a pinch of good-natured sibling rivalry tossed in.
"I go like that. He can't figure it out," Prange said, molding chocolate, a skill Weiss hasn’t learned just yet.
Love of family -- a key ingredient in this recipe for success.
"This is a perfect job for me, But the bonus is, I really get to work with my sister on a daily basis and she is terrific," Weiss said.
For more information on Dena's Specialty Candy, you can visit their website.
If you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at [email protected]