As anyone working on Capitol Hill will tell you these days, it’s not all sweetness and light. Talk to Dave Burton, however, and he sees things differently. In fact, it’s all sweetness and light.
Working out of a kitchen just a few blocks north of the U.S. Capitol building, Burton and his team from The Capital Candy Jar, create an assortment of lollipops, flavored marshmallows, chocolate-covered Oreos, divinity, barks and other tasty confections.
It all started when the founder Burton was 14 years old. Blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit, the youngster was always looking for ways to make extra spending money. As a child, his options were limited. He tried selling greeting cards door-to-door and even set up a small lemonade stand. Noble, traditional ventures, but financially frustrating. It was his mother, however, who came to the rescue. She had found a recipe for home-made lollipops and together they made a few flavors. Dave took them to school and sold them to his friends. Eureka, they were a huge hit!
That, however, wasn’t the end of Burton’s sweet career track. Over the years various jobs kept him close to candy making. For example, his first real job at the age of 15 was as a singing fudge maker at a local mall. After college Burton pursued a career in retail marketing and consulting, but maintained his passion for sugary treats. In 2006 he moved to the Washington, D.C. area.
In 2014 Burton decided that he was tired of consulting and began searching for the next career path to follow. After making Valentine’s treats for several of his friends, the answer presented itself. With the support and encouragement of several of his friends and family, The Capital Candy Jar was born.
Anxious to build a company that supported the city and the local economy, he joined Union Kitchen, a D.C.- based food incubator. Working mostly in the evening — the mornings are busy with a host of fellow entrepreneurs preparing food for their businesses — Burton makes all the candy by hand in small batches. Locals and tourists can purchase Capital Candy Jar confections at various retail and foodservice outlets throughout the city.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
Oh goodness, this is a tough one. I think I’m going to say divinity. I love how fluffy and smooth it is and how it just melts in your mouth. I remember my grandmother making it when I was a kid and that’s one of the memories that made me decide to become a candy maker.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an actor. I had big dreams of Hollywood and Broadway but when I got to college I realized that there were a lot of people way more talented than me.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
All of the healthy food regulations that are coming out. I fear one day that candy will be made the scapegoat for obesity issues in the United States and that a lot of people will go out of business.
What is your pet peeve?
People who drive slow in the fast lane on the freeway.
If given the chance to choose anyone, whom would you like to collaborate with?
Alton Brown, host of Cutthroat Kitchen. He is such an interesting character and it was watching one of his shows that I learned to make marshmallows. I bet we could come up with some really cool new confections together.