5 Star Story: Bluff City Toffee

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 10:29 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There’s a sweet shop in Memphis that has a really sweet mission—giving job experience and training to adults with special needs. And since the Madonna Learning Center took over the shop last fall, it has had record-breaking sales!

In this week’s 5 Star Story about the people, places and things that make us proud to call Memphis home, we’re going behind the scenes with the confectioners at Bluff City Toffee.

About the only thing better than the smell of warm toffee is eating it! And Bluff City Toffee, tucked away in the Racquet Club Plaza on Sanderlin Avenue, has some delicious options.

(Right) Livi Aldrich
(Right) Livi Aldrich(Action News 5)

Just ask Livi Aldrich, one of the trainees who weighs, bags and gift wraps those options.

Aldrich told us while weighing some delicious milk chocolate-covered toffee chunks, “I like working here because we put toffee in packets, have popcorn, and we make cookies, too.”

Production Manager Rob Crone expounded on the many sweet treats available.

“So we have three different types of toffee. We have milk chocolate pecan toffee, we have dark chocolate pecan toffee with some sea salt on top, and white chocolate macadamia nut toffee. Then we have our butter toffee popcorn,” Crone detailed.

Also a supervisor at Madonna Learning Center, Crone spends part of his day training adults in the center’s vocation program. Ethan Thomas has been with the learning center since 2011 and says he loves it and his job at Bluff City Toffee. “I love doing the popcorn,” Thomas expressed while adding that the popcorn he’s busily pouring into bags smells good, too.

Bob Crone and Ethan Thomas
Bob Crone and Ethan Thomas(Action News 5)

Bluff City Toffee is not the only job opportunity available to the trainees at Madonna Learning Center.

According to Crone, “that is a full on-the-job training program from 8 o’clock to 3 o’clock. Half the day they’re at different job sites, and in the afternoon they’re at more job sites. It’s different every day. And that’s one way we kind of get our foot in the door and show companies that it’s okay to hire from our community. They’ll be probably your best employees, they’ll be on time, they’ll work hard and they will not stop until the job is done.”

Crone pointed out that the program is also a great opportunity for the adult trainees to work in an encouraging environment with their friends.

In addition to her work at Bluff City Toffee, trainee Katie Olsen also works part-time at St. Agnes Academy.

“And I’m a Pre-K teaching assistant. I work with four-year-old kids, and the kids will come to me and tell me, ‘It’s Miss Katie!’” she told us while weighing toffee.

Katie Olsen
Katie Olsen(Action News 5)

Madonna Learning Center bought Bluff City Toffee from the previous owner late last year. Since then, Crone said business has boomed!

“Around 4,000% increase from sales last year to this year. And it is not slowing down,” he added.

Crone said online sales are huge, too, with custom orders, corporate gifts and weddings, but he hopes to get more foot traffic into the store as well.

Either way, you can munch on the sweetness coming out of this shop knowing the people who made the confections did it with love.

As Katie said, “Just being part of, being with your coworkers and getting you’re a part of a team.”

While Ethan exclaimed, “We’re working hard!”

And Livi expressed, “It feels so good working here, and with my friends.”

(Action News 5)

Bluff City Toffee is another sweet success that makes us proud to call Memphis home.

If you’d like to stop in at Bluff City Toffee, the shop is open at 5160 Sanderlin Avenue Suite No. 5, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

To place an online order or for more information about the store, visit bluffcitytoffee.com.

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