Clay Richart and Holly Burton Richart had a family recipe for caramel, a love for bacon and lavender and an entrepreneurial spirit. What resulted in 2011 was something wonderfully Tacoman - Fingerprint Confections.
I spoke by phone with Holly Burton Richart recently, asking her all kind of questions about her Tacoma caramel company. Here are excerpts:
Q: How old is your company?A: We officially started our company in September 2011. We experimented around, kind of had our maiden voyage in making caramels for friends and weddings at first.
Q: Tell readers a bit more about your caramels.A: My husband, who makes the caramels, he’s great about putting things together. It came out of trying to find something to put bacon in - he would make bacon dredged in brown sugar and chipotle and put it out on birthday platters. All the parents would sit around and inhale the bacon. My husband asked me, ‘What should I do with this?’ I suggested putting it in some caramel using his family recipe. He did it, it tasted pretty darn good.
Q: Tell us more about that family recipe.A: The caramel candies came from his sister, she has a restaurant in Eastern Washington (in Kettle Falls). She would send us caramel. She did more of a traditional butter caramel. My husband loves to experiment. Clay is the one, he does such a good job with this, he was playing around with the recipe. He wanted to come up with something that’s a sea salt version of that, something that was a vehicle for bacon. It didn’t turn out apples to apples the same, it was a softer, more buttery caramel that was easier to chew, something that people didn’t have to say, ‘I can’t eat that because it will stick to my teeth.’
Q: How did playing around with caramel grow into your business?A: We had some friends coming up and they were doing a wedding on a budget. We made their wedding favors. That was our maiden voyage. … We started taking it more seriously last year where we're like maybe we could start this as a business? Maybe we could make that happen? We started off with some of the basics in getting a license and proceeding to find commercial kitchen space (they found it at Burning Cupcakes on Sixth Avenue).
Q: Commercial cooking space is a necessity for small businesses that must use a licensed facility to make edibles. How does the commercial cooking space work for you?A: Burning Cupcakes has been great in working with us … I hope that Tacoma continues to find vehicles for commercial kitchen space. We would love to be part of a commercial kitchen incubator, a shared space for what we are trying to do.
Q: How much caramel do you produce?A: It depends, it varies. … I have events where we’ll do a lot of donations for not-for-profits if they have an auction. ... I had a wholesale order last week for 1,000 pieces. We’ve also got itty bitty orders.
Q: You do everything by hand? How long does it take to make the caramel?A: Yes. A pan yields about 195 pieces. (Making a pan) takes about, start to finish, with cooking time on the stove, about an hour and 10 minutes for a double pan. Then you’ve got cooling and setting time, that’s 2.5-3 hours. That’s the time we use to make our wrappers.
Q: Your husband is the cook in the family?A: He’s always had something going on with cooking in his family. His sister with her restaurant and his aunt owns a chocolate and confections company in Idaho... His mom made wedding cakes. It’s kind of in his DNA.
Q: Can you tell readers besides ordering caramels through your website, where can they buy your caramels?A: Dwelling, Market on Market carries it as well (that store is closed until January), Crescent Moon has some selection.
Q: Which flavors are popular with your customers?A: Sea salt is a really good classic. Gingerbread and bacon. It can really vary.
Q: What’s your favorite flavor?A: Coconut. My husband’s is lavender.
Q: You make caramel candies that you hand wrap with freezer paper stamped with your lovely logo. You also make a line of caramel sauces?A: Yes, we use it daily in our coffee. It’s great drizzled over ice cream; served with apples; mixed in with ganaches; baked into brownies; popcorn balls. I’ve seen people drizzle it on cheesecake.
Q: What’s next for your business?A: We love supporting Tacoma. I think the biggest thing is working with other merchants in Tacoma and seeing how many people want to see Tacoma succeed with small businesses. We want to be a part of that and continue to grow.