When Kellie Sandefur, owner of Velma’s Candy in Lynchburg, dips caramel into chocolate or makes buttercream filling for truffles, she sees the face of her grandmother, who continues to provide inspiration from the pictures on the wall. Sandefur’s happiest childhood memories involve her grandparents, Velma and John Rives, who owned “a tiny little grocery store two doors down” from where Velma’s Candy is located today.
Sandefur spent “pretty much my whole life growing up until high school” at the mom-and-pop store, which was called V&J Market.
“I grew up in Lynchburg and have so many wonderful memories living in this small, southern town,” Sandefur said. “Looking back, most of my childhood experiences happened in a very special place, V&J Market.”
The most coveted feature of V&J Market was the candy aisle, which fascinated Sandefur.
As children, she and her siblings would often find themselves in the candy aisle, their eyes growing wide from the colorful and aromatic display of treats.
“Candy cigarettes, marathon bars, bottlecaps, penny candy…you name it V&J had it,” Sandefur said. “Grandma was at the checkout stand and she was the one that told us to get any candy we wanted.”
John and Velma owned V&J Market in Lynchburg for decades.
The community loved and respected Velma as a businessperson and as a “charming Southern lady,” said Sandefur.
“She just inspired me,” Sandefur said. “When I was a kid, we would go around the square in Lynchburg, and I would say, ‘I can put a shop in there.’ Having a candy store has been a dream of mine.”
When Sandefur opened the doors of her own shop in Lynchburg, she wanted to dedicate the venture to her grandmother and called it Velma’s Candy.
“My grandmother was a business owner back when female business owners weren’t that prevalent,” Sandefur said. “She was my inspiration.”
Sandefur opened Velma’s Candy in March 2018, developing her craft and growing the business for about a year. Then, the pandemic hit, and she had to close the store. But another trait Sandefur inherited from her grandmother is determination. Velma taught her to face challenges and persevere.
“I closed the doors for about a year, and I just reopened them in March,” Sandefur said.
She invites candy lovers of all ages to visit the store and enjoy some sweets in a space that brings memories of “simpler times.”
“We specialize in candy, mostly chocolate and fudge that contain Jack Daniel’s spirit,” Sandefur said. “We also have turtles that are very popular. That was Velma’s favorite candy. I make a turtle with a caramel patty that I place on top of a little blob of chocolate – either dark chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate – and then I place half pecans around it to resemble a turtle. Then I top it with more of the same chocolate. The sea turtle is made with dark chocolate and I put sea salt on that one. The white chocolate ones are very popular, too.”
Sandefur enhances the taste of the truffles by adding a dash of whiskey to the recipe.
“And I just started doing a Grownup Oreo,” she said. “I take the center out of an Oreo cookie and I put that same buttercream filling that I put in the truffles. I sandwich the center between the cookie, and then I dunk it into the dark chocolate. I make the Grownup Oreos with Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and they are extremely popular with the guests.”
Sandefur makes the sweet treats in the candy kitchen of the store, and photos of her beloved grandparents bring joy and love, which she pours into the candy.
“I melt chocolate, I chop pecans, I use a lot of caramel,” she said. “I would dip strawberries in chocolate for holidays. I do special orders if someone has an idea. I really like catering to the locals, just as much as the guests because I’m a local girl. I know so many people on the square. I grew up with them. I want to make them happy because I love them and they’re my family.”
The store is a tribute to Velma and John who loved the community they served. Velma’s Candy honors “a precious grandmother who didn’t mind losing money on candy as long as her grandbabies were happy.”
Sandefur hopes Velma’s Candy will spark visitors’ memories as they “revisit some of the nostalgic candy on the shelves” of the store. She wants to give customers delicious fudge and chocolate, wrapped in warmth and nostalgia.
“I just very much enjoy what I do,” Sandefur said. “I get to see my grandmother’s beautiful face every day. I have several pictures of her back in the 1940s. My grandmother was a hostess at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House for a while.”
Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was originally built in 1867. It served as a hotel for travelers. Jack and Mary Bobo purchased the property in 1908 and changed the name to the Bobo Hotel. Miss Mary operated the boarding house until her death in 1983, when she was 101, according to www.jackdaniels.com. Today, Miss Mary Bobo's Restaurant offers mouth-watering Southern dishes to Lynchburg visitors.
Velma and John married shortly before he went to the Philippines during World War II. They owned V&J Market from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s, when they retired. They sold the space, which today houses Lynchburg Harley Davidson.
Her grandparents showed Sandefur dedication to community, work, Lynchburg visitors and family. Today, she continues the tradition.
“I really could not do any of this without my wonderful husband, Dean,” Sandefur said. “Having a candy shop has been a dream of mine and he helped me make it come to fruition. He is a huge part of the Velma’s Candy Store. My job is very fulfilling and rewarding.”
The shop is located at 14 Short St., Lynchburg and welcomes customers every day. Learn more about Velma’s Candy Store by visiting www.velmascandy.com.