Homemade toffee was always a special treat for Mark Graves, growing up in his family home in Chapel Hill, N.C.
In 2006, after years of perfecting her secret family recipe, Mark’s mother, Karen Graves, decided to turn her favorite hobby into a home-based business, KLG Candies. That year, the Chapel Hill Toffee brand made its retail debut at A Southern Season, a specialty foods market in the heart of Chapel Hill.
In 2008, Mark decided to join his mother in the kitchen and help her take her small business to the next level. Mark’s wife, Christy Graves, a fellow Chapel Hill native, soon joined the team and in June 2015, they welcomed their first son, Griff. He’s named for Mark’s late father, Griff Graves.
Mark and Christy’s son isn’t Griff’s only namesake. The elder Griff was the first and biggest fan of his family’s toffee. They spent countless hours over the kitchen stove to create a toffee he would love, and now, in his memory, the Graves Family launched the Griff’s Toffee brand. It features a pecan variety as well as Griff’s Coffee Toffee, the brand’s newest offering.
Karen’s oldest son, Scott, came on board in 2015 to offer much-needed help. Two years later, Mark and Christy welcomed their second son, Joe.
While Chapel Hill Toffee has quickly expanded to over 400 retail locations with an online store that ships to customers all over the country, KLG Candies’ toffee is still lovingly handcrafted in the place where it all began, “The Southern Part of Heaven.”
Mark and Christy answer these questions together below.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
If our toffee isn’t an option, then Skittles!
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
Easy and relatable parenting tips! Living with our two very young boys (ages 1 and 3) can be tricky, so tidbits that we can implement immediately are life savers! (Candy pun intended!)
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Mark wanted to be a professional golfer, and Christy wanted to be a backup dancer for Janet Jackson.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
It’s extremely difficult for small businesses to break through and “make it.” There are a ton of high quality and innovative new products out there, but there are just as many barriers to break through in order to grow and stay in business.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
“Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a fascinating read that takes a look at what factors lead to “success” and explains that there are often more forces at work than just hard work. Being in the right place at the right time is very important.
What is your pet peeve?
Somewhat ironically, the sound of people crunching drives me nuts! (Pun not intended.)
If given the chance to choose anyone, with whom would you like to collaborate?
Creative Snacks. They are also a relatively young company but they make fantastic, wholesome products that I would love to combine with our chocolate and toffee.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Be kind and treat everyone with respect. You never know what another person is truly going through.
What excites you most about your job?
Launching our new flavor, Coffee Toffee! After 12 years of our original flavor, it’s exciting to bring a new product to market!