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PROFILE: Sweet taste of success

RUSSELL, Ky. — The quiet looking house at 214 Main St., in downtown Russell looks much like many of its neighbors — small, unostentatious and inviting, its exterior holding few clues about the richness of its interior.

But step inside and the rows and rows of chocolate just might dazzle you. For those who crave sweets, N&M Cake and Candy Supplies is Mecca.

A little history

N&M Cake and Candy Supplies was started 30 years ago by then-owner Naomi Hillman in a garage behind her house on Bellefonte Street, present-day owner Pamela Henderson said.

“I got to know Naomi through Mom, who bought her candy from Naomi. Mom worked for Naomi now and then and she and Dad worked for me up until about two years ago,” Henderson said.

Henderson bought the store 12 years ago, but candy and cakes have always been a family thing.

“Mom always made candy and I played around in it a little bit,” she said.

Then came an opportunity to do a little more than play with it.

“I hated my other job and thought this was a way out.”

Henderson had been laid off from AK Steel and was commuting back and forth to Louisa, Ky., to work at a factory there. She thought the cake and candy store would be a job she might actually love.

It didn’t turn out to be a full-time job she had hoped for but even after she returned to work at AK Steel, she kept the store.

N&M has grown and now sells an estimated 25,000 pounds of chocolate each year, not to mention all the goodies that go with it.

“Our biggest seller is the milk chocolate, followed by the white and then the dark chocolate,” manager Jenny Phillips said. She is Henderson’s sister.

A bit of everything

For the culinary artist, N&M offers just about everything you need to transform an idea into oral ecstacy.

There are pre-made candy fillings and the dry ingredients to make your own. Supplies for gourmet apples? Got it. Holiday-themed cupcake liners, candy sprinkles and cake molds? N&M has St. Patrick’s Day and Easter-themed supplies on its shelves right now. And there are molds, hundreds of them, hanging on walls and on display racks. Praying hands… Easter eggs… suckers… even breast cancer ribbon molds. There are molds to make wedding mints and, for kiddie parties, the alphabet.

For culinary artists who want to fool their guests, there are Reese cup-style molds, Heath bar-style molds and even Hershey kisses-style molds.

There are flavorings and boxes that can be decorated to give as gifts and even a fondue fountain.

For those with dietary restraints, there is sugar-free chocolate.

N&M sells supplies for hard candy, too. And there are cake boards and molds that turn batter into bunnies and southern belle dolls.

“We try to add something every year if it goes over,” Phillips said.

Don’t see it? N&M can order it.

Help for the would-be artist

N&M used to offer classes for those who wanted a good start in the art of cake and candy making, but Henderson said the business has grown so much there isn’t room or time anymore to accommodate all the people who would show up to learn.

But they do offer books and their own hand-out sheets with helpful tips. On slow days an inquirer might be taken to a back room and shown the finer points of cake or candy decorating. But there are very few slow days.

Christmas is the big season. Henderson and Phillips have to start planning for Christmas in October. After Christmas, N&M gears up for Valentine’s Day and then Easter. If Easter falls late in April, the rush can carry over to Mother’s Day.

The hours vary according to the season but are usually 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.

What does Henderson like best?

“Oh, the people,” she said. “You get some bad ones but most of them are really nice. We tell them what we know and share ideas with them.” u