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Flowery Branch cooks spread butter, sugar and love
Toffee-making business has personal tie to the duo
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Bonita Dobbs, left, helps Nancy Shawcross pour freshly cooked toffee onto a pan at Papa Jack’s Country Kitchen in Flowery Branch on a recent Saturday afternoon. The duo recently founded their own business, Henley Toffee. - photo by KATIE DUNN
Looking for Henley Toffee?
In addition to Whole Foods, Henley Toffee products can be purchased at Papa Jack’s Country Kitchen or ordered from Henley Toffee’s Web site.

FLOWERY BRANCH - A lot of love and dedication goes into each piece of Henley Toffee.

Just ask business partners and longtime friends Nancy Shawcross and Bonita Dobbs.

The friends spend their evenings each weekend in Papa Jack’s Country Kitchen in Flowery Branch, performing a whirlwind of pouring, stirring, sprinkling and packaging their toffee treats.

Making just one eight-pound batch of the delectable sweet takes at least four hours to cook, cover with chocolate and nuts, cut and then package, according to Dobbs.

“We get tired, but it’s been fun,” she said.

All the toffee is made with butter, sugar and California almonds, but people can choose from a variety of toppings.

Customers can choose from traditional English Toffee, which is covered with dark Belgian chocolate and walnuts, or toffee covered in milk chocolate or white Belgian chocolate with almonds on top.

While toiling in a hot kitchen for hours is tiring, starting Henley Toffee last August was an adventure and risk both women welcomed after spending most of their lives working in corporate America’s competitive environment.

“It’s a low-risk adventure in today’s environment and so we thought it would be fun,” Shawcross said. “We’re at a point where we kind of want to reinvent ourselves. So we decided that we would do the toffee.”

Shawcross, who comes from a long line of British ancestry, chose one of her father’s family recipes to make the toffee.

Her grandparents emigrated from England to the U.S. in the 1920s. Her father, William Henley Shawcross, is a first-generation American and also the inspiration behind his daughter’s business.

Not only does Henley Toffee use his middle name, but its logo also has a personal touch.

A photograph of a young boy dressed in period clothing playing a herald trumpet is attached to each bag, jar or box of toffee that is sold. Hanging off the horn is a banner emblazoned with Henley Toffee.

Shawcross said her grandfather was a commercial photographer and would take photos of relatives to use as the family’s Christmas card each year.

The photograph Shawcross chose for her business was the family’s 1937 Christmas card and the young trumpeter is Shawcross’ father when he was 13.

While the business is fairly new, making toffee has been a part of Shawcross’ life for 32 years. She first began making the candy with her sister, Gail Hines, in1977 in California.

Shawcross’ and Hines’ mother, Mary, loved toffee, and the sisters began making the treat as a Christmas present for her and other family friends each year.

Seventeen years ago, Shawcross’ toffee partner changed when she and Dobbs began making the treat together. The duo first met in 1974 and now both live in the Village at Deaton Creek in Hoschton.

When Shawcross and Dobbs first began their business, finding a place to prepare the toffee was a major obstacle, but their search led them just down the road to Papa Jack’s Country Kitchen.

Bill Mays, the restaurant’s owner, welcomed them with open arms after learning of their venture. Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, the restaurant closes after lunch and Mays allows Dobbs and Shawcross to use his kitchen.

“He is just so generous and really has been so supportive and helped us with so much,” Shawcross said. “It’s been one of the nicest perks about this venture is the wonderful people like Bill who extend themselves and help us because we’re new to this.”

Still, they must be doing something right. In December, Whole Foods Market, a natural and organic grocery store chain, agreed to sell their toffee; now it’s found in five Atlanta-area stores.

And Dobbs and Shawcross continue to expand the business each day. They recently developed a new toffee type solely for JumpinGoat Coffee Roasters in Helen. Instead of topping the toffee with walnuts or almonds, they sprinkle ground coffee beans on top.

A future goal both women have is to one day open a shop of their own, but until then, they are confident one factor will remain constant no matter where they make the toffee.

“We really believe in the product,” Shawcross said. “Everything else we’re learning and growing and figuring out, but we feel very confident in the actual product.”