GREENWOOD, Neb (KMTV) — Small businesses have taken a big hit during the pandemic. That's why KMTV is encouraging you to "Shop The Heartland For The Holidays." 3 News Now's Serese Cole took a quick road trip to one small Nebraska town to find out why Christmas time is prime time for a popular Nebraska candy maker.
Tucked away on a quiet road in Greenwood, Nebraska - is one of the state's sweetest treasures.
Inside - it's crunch time.
"It gets pretty crazy. There's candy flying all over," said Todd Baker, General Manager at Bakers Candies.
"For us at Christmas time, it means making Nebraska's Christmas chocolate," he added.
Todd Baker is a second-generation candymaker at Bakers Candies. His dad Kevin was the first.
"He mass-produced missile systems for the U.S. Defense Department for many years, and when the demand for missiles finally wound down dad was left with a skill and no outlet. So he started inventing candy equipment for other companies," Baker explained.
"We never forget the speech in our family when mom and dad broke the news that we were starting a candy factory. It was quite frankly the greatest day of our young lives," he laughed.
"The number one seller is our milk chocolate Bavarian mint - followed by our dark chocolate Bavarian mint," Baker said.
Todd shows us how the gourmet goodies are created - beginning with 2000 pounds of chocolate. All that chocolate is melted down and mixed with cocoa butter and the flavors of the day. The next step is to turn a river of chocolate - into one giant candy bar.
"A 30-foot long chocolate bar is a fantastic novelty, everybody loves the idea, but we find them hard to sell so the next step is to get them bite-sized," Baker explained.
Then, the Meltaway signature - coating the chocolate with even more chocolate.
"So there is really no other candy company in the world that mass produces the gourmet chocolate Meltaway the way we do," Baker said.
The line operators check each piece for perfection.
"If they don't like it they'll remove it as a second - and we'll take it up to the outlet and sell it that way," Baker stated. "This is really the reason why people started driving out here was to buy those chocolates - the ones you can't sell to retailers - but people can still enjoy.
From there, each chocolately chunk is cooled, wrapped and packaged.
And his time of year, everyone helps - including the next generation of Baker candy makers.
Traditionally, Bakers Candies sells 25 million of these Meltaways during the holiday season. That's about a dozen per Nebraskan.
"We figure our Meltaways are probably one of if not the most popular Christmas gifts in Nebraska," Baker shared. "I think they take a lot of pride in giving a gift that's made proudly in Nebraska."
Made in a small town that's big on chocolate.
During the pandemic, the retail business at Bakers Candies actually increased. People were looking for safe things they could do with their family. It turns out, the Greenwood outlet has become a road trip destination for people across the state and neighboring states.
The 6000-foot outlet has 500 different kinds of candies.
Watch the extended web extra below.