Sam and Donna Atkinson have tried to satisfy Columbia residents’ sweet tooths for more than 20 years, doling out countless confections as the owners of The Candy Factory.
In 1986, they bought the shop and many of the recipes they use from Georgia Lundgren, who started the business in 1976.
“After we bought the business, we realized we had talents that worked well with the business,” Donna Atkinson said.
Twenty-one years later, the Atkinsons keep the tradition of locally made candy alive with their family-owned business. Mike Atkinson, Sam and Donna’s son and director of sales for The Candy Factory, said the shop hasn’t had much direct competition.
“Our competition is (broader),” he said. “We compete for the customer’s gift dollar, and often candy is that gift. Any store where a person goes to get a gift is our competition.”
The Atkinsons strive to edge out their competition by producing high-quality candy.
“Our No. 1 goal is to maintain an excellent product,” Donna Atkinson said.
Mike Atkinson agrees. “(We) don’t cut any corners in the candy-making process, but we refine our processes to make the candy more efficiently,” he said.
One way the business sets itself apart from other stores that sell gifts is by providing a Willy Wonka-style atmosphere for customers on the shop’s second floor, where customers can watch the candy-making process.
“We also make sure that there is the presence of one owner at all times,” Mike Atkinson said.
The Atkinsons think that future generations could fill their roles, but it isn’t a certainty.
“It’s an open book,” Donna Atkinson said. “Whatever happens, happens, and everyone must have the opportunity to do what they want.”
Mike Atkinson said he always knew he wanted to work at The Candy Factory, but he took a detour first. He went to Baylor University, learned about family businesses and worked in the corporate world before settling in at The Candy Factory.
He said working in a family business is “not always perfect, but we came up with a plan to work together, have the same goals and ensure success.”
With his wife, Amy, and Sam and Donna Atkinson involved, “everything is a quick four-person decision,” he said.
Donna Atkinson said, “Our decision making is personalized, and we can customize our products for the customers.”
Providing customized service has benefits for the business owners, as well.
“I never dread coming to work,” Donna Atkinson said. “Each day holds something different.”