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The strong tradition of entrepreneurship in the Troyer family is evident with all of the siblings owning or helping run their own business at some point during their lives. Lydia Troyer currently owns and operates Troyer's Homemade Candies in Millersburg, with help from her niece Rachel and help from the neighbor girls with candy making through Christmas.
Their products can be found at stores throughout the area including Troyers Home Pantry in Apple Creek where their crunchy butter puffs are flying off the shelves. The candies are made with white, dark and regular chocolate.
Lydia Troyer and her team use a tool made from wire called a float to dip the candy balls for truffles. This technique was developed to help save time and was much more efficient than the previous method of taking the ball, placing it on a curved fork and dipping them one at a time.
The top sellers for Troyer's Homemade Candies are the truffles, the turtle bars, cashew crunch clusters, crunchy butter puffs, buckeyes and ritzy's.
"I always use real butter for our products," said Lydia Troyer. "The candy we make has no wax or paraffin added and you can really see and taste the difference in the chocolate."
The biggest improvement over the past 54 years was moving to the space they are currently working out of. Built in 2008, it gives Lydia and her sister Esther, who sometimes helps out at the store, the ability to see and take care of more customers each day.
"We have made so many friends through our business," said Troyer. "The furthest that Troyer's Homemade Candies have ever traveled was to Germany. We now have bus tours that come through and the guests can come in and dip their own candy to take home with them."
Troyer's Homemade Candies also ships to Tappenish, Washington where it is distributed through a wholesaler.
This Easter, Troyer's Homemade Candies will have chocolate bunnies, chocolate chicks and eggs. All of the candies are made by hand with techniques that were put into practice long ago.
"The business started out as a hobby for my mom," said Troyer. "When she was 12 years old she would take care of her brothers and sisters and when her mother left for several hours or a whole day, she would be allowed to make a batch of candy."
Every Christmas Lydia's mother (Anna B. Troyer) and grandmother would make candy for the family to eat. When Anna and her husband Daniel (known as Rudy Dan) bought their first farm in the spring of 1960, Anna was trying to think of something to do to make more money to help out with the family's expenses.
There was a milk check coming in that was big enough to cover the farm payments, but not enough extra money to pay for the groceries to feed the family. There was canned food in the basement, but at that time they had 8 children to feed.
The family got together and decided that they could make candy to sell if someone would do the selling. Anna sent a note to school with her children to see if the school principal would be okay with the children selling candy to their classmates. The rest, as they say, is history.
Anna went to the store and bought $20 worth of supplies, which she used up. She made caramels and rocky road squares with each piece wrapped separately. The school children bought it and thought it was very good, so they began selling more and more and finally decided to take orders because they were selling so much.
In 1970, Troyer's Homemade Candies made over 900 pounds of candy from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Since then the business has continued to grow steadily, with their record year in 1980, making 1,800 pounds of candy. This past year, they made around 1,000 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas and Lydia is hoping to make even more in 2014.
"I grew up with the business," Troyer said. "I enjoy talking with the customers and seeing people come back each year."
Since Anna's passing in October of 2012, the candies and the memories have continued with Lydia. There is a Troyer's Homemade Candy Cookbook available because the family has always enjoyed sharing their recipes and makes no secret of the ingredients used to make the delicious items that line the shelves. Visitors will enjoy talking to and learning from Lydia just as much as they will enjoy sampling a taste of chocolate while they are at the store. This spring there are at least 15 bus tours scheduled to stop by for a visit.
Troyer's Homemade Candies is located at 8888 Township Road 559 in Millersburg. You can request a candy price list and anyone wishing to purchase a cookbook may send their address, along with $8 to cover shipping and handling. Candy prices vary depending on the quantity being purchased. Stop in the store or call 330-988-8947 to leave a message for more information.