Retailer Highlight: The Capital Candy Jar

Please introduce yourself.
My name is Dave Burton.

What made you decide to be an entrepreneur?
I started my first candy company when I was 14. When I asked my parents for money to do things that a 14-year-old kid would want to do, they didn’t have it to spare. Instead, they gave me a recipe to make lollipops and urged me to try selling them at school. So that’s what I did. I started making lollipops and sold them to my friends. I started adding other candies to the mix, and I was the richest kid in school for about three months. Then the principal shut me down because I was taking too much money away from the vending machines.

How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I studied marketing and retail in college. Afterward, I worked in marketing for several big retailers. The last place was Dick’s Sporting Goods, where I led their ScoreCard loyalty program. About seven years ago, I was looking for a change of career, and I thought about how candy was profitable for me when I was a kid. I wanted to see if I could make it profitable again. At that time, D.C. didn’t have any other candy companies. My sister lived in D.C. at the time, and we’d make candy in a shared kitchen every night from 5 p.m. until midnight. Then I would go out throughout the day to sell the candy at farmers’ markets, small grocery stores, and coffee shops.

When did you start your company?
I started the Capital Candy Jar seven years ago.

What makes your products unique?
Our packaging and designs are probably among our best features. We joined a marketplace that took us national, and now we’re in 150 stores across the United States. Why would a store in Indiana or Wyoming or Alaska want to carry Capital Candy Jar products? Vendors tell me it’s because our candy is just so beautifully packaged and so pretty. Another advantage is our Giant Peanut Butter Cups, not only for the size but also because we use real peanut butter for the filling. A candy we created called the Chocolate Caramel Cloud is another of our signature products.

What is your company’s mission?
Our mission is to put smiles on the faces of everyone we meet.

Please describe your company’s successes. Was there a pivotal moment?
The first pivotal moment was when we grew large enough to move from the shared kitchen into our own production space on Capitol Hill. That was life-changing: It was 10 times bigger, and we were able to stretch out and grow. Interestingly, five years later, we’re working elbow-to-elbow again. So we’re growing pretty fast.

The pandemic was another pivotal moment. We had grown to partnering with hotels and supplying conferences with our products. It was devastating to receive calls from all of these people, saying that they were closing and not to deliver any more candy. We ended up having to furlough many of our employees. We were able to pivot quickly and build up our online presence. With a PPP loan, we brought back all of our staff. Still, it was a very rough summer and early fall, and our plan was to get through Christmas and make as much money as we could before closing the business. Instead, 2020 was our best Christmas season ever. Next, we had our best Valentine’s Day, our best Cherry Blossom Festival season, and our best Easter in 2021. Today, we’re in the best financial and growth position we’ve ever been in. It’s pretty amazing what can happen in a year, especially during a pandemic.

Why this location?
Really, it came down to finding a location that had the right rent, and that turned out to be in the middle of a Capitol Hill neighborhood, surrounded by residences.

How does your business help your neighborhood and community?
The neighborhood has truly embraced us. This is the fun, trusted place kids come to after school. We see a lot of kids brought in by their parents or grandparents as a reward for doing something great that week. We support our neighborhood and give back by participating in fundraisers with the four local schools.

Where are you originally from? 
DC metro area.

Can you name a fun fact or unique thing about your business?
Our packaging and our Giant Peanut Butter Cups.

How would you define your business in three words?
Sweet, fun, lively.

What is your favorite holiday?
Christmas is a favorite holiday from a sales perspective. Personally, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because I love food, I love cooking, and it’s a wonderful time to be around family and friends.

What would you recommend people buy from your store?
For any time of the year, the chocolate-covered Oreo three-pack, which includes cookies bearing the DC flag and the DC map. For the Christmas season, the Cranberry Orange Pistachio Bark. It’s white chocolate infused with orange oil, with dried cranberries, pistachios, and orange peel sprinkled on top.

What is the best thing a customer has ever said to you?
I’ve had several customers come in at Christmas time and specifically ask for the Peppermint Bark or the Cranberry Orange Pistachio Bark. That these have become a family tradition, for me, that’s really cool. It means that people are letting us into their lives and making us a part of their family.