Macon candy maker finds success in sweets, giving back to community
At Crown Candy Corp. it’s easy to see — and smell — what goes into the yummy treats of coconut bon bons, toasted macaroons, and pecan logs.
But to Jamie Weatherford, the plant manager and third-generation member of the family business, other ingredients — commitment to community, a belief in second chances, and love of nostalgia — are just as important to Macon-based Crown Candy’s success.
Those core beliefs, which Weatherford says he learned from his grandfather, E.L. Brooking, are also important to him personally. “He was a large inspiration in my life and a great man,” Weatherford says.
Thirteen years ago, those values also drew him back to Crown Candy — and Macon — when his dad called to seek Weatherford’s help in running the 98-year-old company.
“It was an honor for me to not only come back and help my father with the day-to-day operations,” he says, “but it was also an honor to be able to come back and continue the legacy of my grandfather.”
Weatherford is the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s (GaMEP) April Face of Manufacturing.
Georgia’s manufacturing sector employs 365,000 and remains a critical component of the state economy. The Faces of Manufacturing initiative is designed to show how companies sustain the communities in which they operate and serve both economically and through the lives of the people they touch.
At Crown Candy, the company’s impact on Macon is demonstrated in a number of ways. There is the candy itself and commitment to keep true to his grandfather’s traditional recipes.
There also is the belief in second chances, something Weatherford is extremely proud of as he touts a work-release program the company has with the Georgia Department of Corrections. It allows incarcerated men and women to find seasonal employment at the company, and Weatherford says 70 percent of those individuals end up becoming permanent staff.
“Everyone has made mistakes in their lives. It’s not important to me what they did in the past, but instead what they are doing today,” he says.
A proud citizen of Macon, Weatherford gives back to the city by promoting Made in Macon, the local maker movement, and Georgia Grown, which supports purchasing products sourced in the state.
One of his special passions, one that he shares with his wife, Jessica Walden, is a love of music and the special place that Macon holds in music history. Together, they’ve worked on the annual Bragg Jam Music Festival, a fundraiser for the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, and they founded Rock Candy Tours, a music history tour company that showcases Macon’s contributions to American music.
For Weatherford, all of his efforts are about making a difference to build a strong Macon for the greater community’s next generation, which includes his young son.
“I’m proud to be a third-generation candy manufacturer, I’m proud to be a Maconite, I’m proud that we’re able to give back to the community in which we live, and I’m proud that we can provide jobs for people who need it,” Weatherford says. “I’m also proud that we create a product that reminds people of a simpler time.”
By Péralte C. Paul