Life in Utah sweet for candymaker

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALPINE, Utah -- When Greg McCormack's friend Taz Murray initially asked the former Bobs Candies president and co-owner if he'd like to work with him at Kencraft Candy here, McCormack firmly told his friend no, that he was simply enjoying life.

When Murray asked a second time, McCormack said he was still enjoying life too much ... but he would listen to what Murray had to say.

The third time proved to be the charm for Murray, who convinced McCormack that his expertise in the candy business would help the family-run Alpine, Utah-based Kencraft, which specializes in handcrafted goodies, improve its market share.

Two years into his new job, McCormack is still enjoying life, but he's doing it as president of a candymaker that has allowed him to return to an industry that has long been in his blood.

"My decision to return to work had nothing to do with boredom," McCormack said of his move to nearby Sandy, Utah, to work with Kencraft. "I discovered after a while that I missed the candy business more than I thought I would.

"Anybody who knows me knows that even though I love Albany and the South and have roots there, my heart and soul have always been in the west, in the mountains. I looked in the mirror a couple of years ago and said, 'You've always wanted to live in the mountains, and here you've got a guy willing to pay you to go out there and work.' I knew it would be hard to leave family and friends behind, but I wanted to give it a try."

The early reluctance that McCormack got from members of his uprooted family gradually disappeared, and now all of the McCormack clan has settled into the western life.

"My daughter (Halley), who was between her sophomore and junior years in high school when we left, initially said she couldn't wait to graduate so she could go to school at Alabama or somewhere in the South," McCormack said. "The first year was tough for her, but now she loves it here. She's decided to go to Colorado State University so she can be in the mountains, and both of my sons (Bryce and Keller, who's a senior at the University of West Virginia) have come out here, too.

"I love to ski, but (wife) Dina and I have had a great time hiking, biking and snowshoeing. The summers here are fantastic -- 95-degree highs with 10 percent humidity, which feels like 75 in Albany -- and even the cold is not so bad with the low humidity. Of course, I have had 2 feet of snow in April, and it's supposed to snow again tonight. It's getting to be enough of that."

Kencraft Handcrafted Confections, which makes unique sweets such as hand-designed lollipops and candy Easter eggs, will be featured on the Food Network show "Kid in a Candy Store" this weekend and next. Host Adam Gertler visited several candymakers for a show about Easter candy, and the episode that will feature Kencraft is scheduled to run Saturday and Monday at 8:30 p.m. and on Easter Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

"I think Kencraft was on the Food Network's radar because they'd done a segment for a show here before," McCormack said. "I worked with the producers to do the preliminary work for the segment they recently shot, but I wanted our employees to be the ones in front of the camera.

"Food Network sent a crew out here for two full days. They set up one afternoon, filmed all day the next day, then shot B-roll the following morning. It was pretty impressive watching them work."

McCormack said the new owners of Bobs Candies knocked a year off his five-year non-compete agreement when he approached them about going to work for Kencraft.

"I did sign a five-year non-compete agreement as part of the sales deal with Bobs, but the new owners agreed to forego the final year because Kencraft is not really in competition with them," McCormack said. "(Kencraft) is a lot more hand-operated, with hand-designed products and not so much mass production.

"We have about one-fifth the total workers of Bobs and produce about one-fifteenth the overall tonnage. And you're not going to find our products in Wal-Mart. We're in gift shops like Place on the Pointe in Albany, in specialty shops and in hospital gift shops."

McCormack admits that he misses family and friends in Southwest Georgia, but the siren call of the mountains has obviously resonated with him.

"Nothing will ever replace family, and I doubt I'll ever have friends like the ones I have in Albany," he said. "But I'd have to say I'm pretty happy right now. I'm really stunned at how my family has embraced life here, and that's just made the transition that much easier."

For this South Georgia candymaker who has come home to the mountains of Utah, life is indeed pretty sweet.