Andy’s dandy candy
After surviving a horrific car wreck, he carries on Grandpa’s candy-making tradition
If you frequent the Chico Saturday Farmers’ Market, you’ve undoubtedly heard him: “Want to try a piece of white chocolate almond toffee? How about a fudge bite?”
And, even if you don’t particularly like candy, when you step up to Andy Perry’s candy stand at the market, you can appreciate his story about how he came to be a maker of fine candies.
At age 21, after a stint of various cooking jobs locally, Perry left Butte County to attend culinary school in Santa Barbara. On the first day of Easter vacation in 1998, he went out to celebrate with his friends. On the way home, wearing no seatbelt, he hit a guard rail at 85 miles per hour. Luckily, he crashed right next to a hospital, so help arrived almost instantaneously.
In spite of the instant medical response, Perry sustained major, life-threatening injuries, including a torn artery and blood vessels, a broken nose, a broken collarbone, a torn knee, a chest concussion, a severe laceration to his back and a closed-head trauma. He remained in a coma for a month, had four operations in two weeks and required 14 units of blood, a respirator, a tracheotomy, a feeding tube for six weeks, and months of various types of rehabilitation. “I had to learn how to do everything all over again, including walking and talking,” he explained.
With strong support from his family and friends, Perry slowly recovered. He entered a program through the Private Industry Council, or PIC, in which he attended Butte Culinary Academy and washed dishes at Italian Cottage. Then he decided to start his own business, Sweet Andy’s Candies.
The business grew from his childhood experiences at the home of his late maternal grandfather, who frequently created homemade candies for everyone in the family. For his grandfather, candy-making was a labor of love—and Perry continues this tradition, noting that when he’s at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings, he can “feel” his grandfather’s presence. Perry said his father, an engineer who is also now deceased, was also a big influence in his life, teaching him about the world of business.
Sweet Andy’s Candies offers a slew of treats that rival anything you can find at Shubert’s or See’s. In fact, one of Perry’s goals is to become “the next See’s Candies!” When you experience his exuberance about his product, you have no doubt that he will succeed.
Perry offers a delectable white-chocolate almond toffee, an interesting semi-sweet chocolate almond toffee (which came directly from his grandfather’s recipes), fudge bites (fudge with a chocolate coating—perfect for the true chocoholics out there!), Spanish peanut brittle (which has Spanish peanuts in it), toffee pops (Perry’s own invention) and more. About his Spanish peanut brittle, he said, “It’s really a bit of an art form—you can give different textures to the brittle, depending on how long you stir it, and other factors.”
Perry said he loves to make people happy with his candy. “If I can help people out with what I do, that gives me joy!
Besides his stand at the Farmers’ Market, his candies can be purchased at S & S Produce, Made in Chico, The Gathering (in the Garden Walk Mall), the Olive Pit, and the Anderson Farmers’ Market in Gridley. Additionally, he can create special orders for people, packaged in attractive baskets with decorative ribbons and adorned with special holiday labels.
Talking with Perry, you can’t help but notice his congenial personality and his absolute zest for life. “The wreck changed me,” he explained, “because I’m still here. I made it through all that. It was a big awakening.”
Perry’s candies make a superb holiday gift or a nice "anytime" present. If you would like to sample his wares, stop by his booth at the Chico Saturday Farmers’ Market.