‘Sisters’ Dip Love into Toffee
Jennifer Graefe, Sara Temlitz and Jennifer Graefe-Olander have sister-in-law relationships that some would envy.
When one of them says “I love you,” the others respond, “I love you more.”
“It is just what we sisters have been saying to each other for years,” said Graefe. “It is a family saying.”
So when they decided to create a small business to sell toffee that they had learned to make from a family friend, they couldn’t think of a better name than Love You More Toffee.
Graefe learned to make the toffee while she was working as a technician at the Shawano Medical Center (now ThedaCare) from 2006 to 2012. One Christmas she decided to make it for the radiologists and her other co-workers at the center. One of the doctor’s wives liked the toffee so much, she asked Graefe to teach a class in how to make it.
In the meantime, Sara’s daughter, Clara, who was then attending Brookfield East High School, was skating competitively and mother and daughter would make the toffee for Clare’s skating coaches, as well as her brother’s hockey teammates.
“Everybody who we made it for wanted to know where they could buy it,” said Temlitz. “So we asked ourselves: should we be trying to sell it?”
Graefe lives on her husband’s family farm north of Kewaunee and has a 2-year-old and 4-year-old. She had quit her job in 2014 to be a stay-at-home mom, and last winter she finally had some time to research commercial kitchens.
With Sara living in Brookfield, near Milwaukee, and Jennifer living in Randolph, near Madison, they had several cities where they could converge to make the toffee together on weekends, so she looked for commercial kitchens in and between their three cities.
“I couldn’t find an incubator kitchen near Milwaukee that met our needs,” said Graefe. But she said wherever she looked online for commercial kitchens, the name of Mary Pat Carlson, founder of the Algoma Farm Market Kitchen, came up.
“So finally we decided it was best to do it here in Algoma,” said Graefe. Both Sara and Jennifer can drive up to the kitchen on weekends, she said.
They have been delighted with the support they have received at the kitchen, said Graefe.
“This kitchen really got us going – Marlene (Machut) and Mary Pat were especially helpful,” she said. “It is a certified kitchen with high standards.”
Once, they had a place to make the toffee and had decided on the name “we were surprised how many people bought it just because of the name,” Graefe said.
They began making their first batches this September and selling them locally.
“We were selling them to our friends, but our roots are in three different markets,” said Graefe. She estimates that they had sold hundreds of bags and boxes of the product by the time the holiday season began this year.
“Our focus is really specialty shops and markets,” said Graefe. “We don’t want it to become just another candy bar on the shelf.”
Love You More Toffee is different from other toffee because every piece is broken and then hand-dipped in chocolate, unlike other toffees where the chocolate is spread on the sheet of toffee and then broken, Graefe said.
“It doesn’t break your teeth like other toffee,” she said. “It melts in your mouth.” She said the secret to this is the temperature used to bake the toffee.
“This is a candy that you can’t get anywhere else,” she said.
It is Clara, now a sophomore at University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has the artistic talent, Temlitz said. Clara designed the packaging, using recycled brown paper whenever possible, Temlitz said. She also designed the display booth that they recently used at the Kewaunee Christkindlmarkt and plan to use at other markets next year.
“We wanted our packaging to be part of what the vibe is – keeping it clean, simple and natural,” Temlitz said.
The candy is sold in 2-ounce and 16-ounce bags and a 4-ounce gift box. It is being sold at Aissen’s Tree Farm in Luxemburg and Alpaca to Apparel and Amy’s Coffee House in Kewaunee this holiday season. The women will also be entering the Green Bay market with an order from The Cannery restaurant.
“It has been hard keeping it on the shelves at some of these places,” said Graefe.
The official name of their company is Love You More LLC. Graefe said they wanted to keep in mind that they may expand their product line to other sweet foods in the future.
“We found a gold mine here (at the Farm Market Kitchen),” she said. “Not in money, but in possibilities.”
They haven’t crunched the numbers yet on their first four months of sales, Graefe said.
Their friend who taught them to make the toffee doesn’t want her name used. But Graefe said that she gave them some advice.
“She told us, ‘You don’t even know how big this could get,’” said Graefe. “But she also added, ‘Just make sure it doesn’t take over your lives.’”
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: 'Sisters' Dip Love into Toffee