Laid-off auto employee thrives in Brighton candy-making business

June 4, 2019 | Story by: Dana Afana | Photos by: Jacob Hamilton

This article originally appeared here.

By Dana Afana | dafana@mlive.com
BRIGHTON, MI — After 15 years, it was time to leave the automotive industry and make candy.

Keith Karp, 46, was a product design engineer for Magna International until he was hit with the 2008 layoffs and found himself with his life savings to determine his next step.

He decided to open “Oh My Lolli!” at 421 Mill Pond Lane in Brighton. The business celebrates its 10-year anniversary on Saturday, June 1.

“I was absolutely devastated when I found myself in the layoff,” Karp said. “Today, I look back and it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I was able to do something that I always wanted to do but was too comfortable in my salary and position.”

Karp spent six weeks in his home office taking online business classes to develop the business concept.

“I chose candy because I researched back in the Great Depression,” he said. “Obviously, we were in a recession so let’s go back to the worst economical time in U.S. history. I found that even during the Great Depression, entertainment, sweets and alcohol still thrived.”

Karp’s business is thriving and he’s looking at opening an offsite candy production facility and thinking about creating independent franchises across the nation, a venture he calls “the ultimate dream.”

The 800-square-foot shop carries more than 20 flavors of lollipops and lolli rocks. The flavorings are supplied by LorAnn in Lansing, which has 90 flavors to choose from for the perfect concoction, Karp said.

“We put our flavorologist minds together … put a little bit of this, a little bit of that and getting that flavor to be perfect,” Karp said.

The Oh My Lolli staff makes four to 10 batches a day. Each mid-size batch holds 63 ounces of candy, which takes 25 minutes to cook and another 30 minutes to an hour to roll up, shape or cut and package.

Karp had an engineer create a heated table to ease hand-rolling the candy into long rods before slicing them to pieces.

The staff often makes more during the summer due to higher foot-traffic. The store also stays open in the winter for special custom orders with a slogan, “Your message…made sweeter.”

“That’s ultimately the bread and butter of the business,” Karp said. “I found this concept very similar to the way fudge is done up north but it’s all hard candy with nothing but the best ingredients. I found this concept is quite prevalent in Europe so I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve never really seen this in the U.S.,’” Karp said.

Every day, the staff hides 10 tokens in the Imagination Station outside of the shop for customers to use as a voucher for a free “lolli.” Karp recommends the Pomegranate Lemonade, followed closely by Saturday Morning Cereal, a Cap’n Crunch flavor.

Oh My Lolli will celebrate its anniversary with family friendly activities, musical entertainment, food and contests from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 1.

The shop and candy is free of allergens such as all nuts, soy, dairy and gluten and uses pure cane sugar, natural corn syrup, water, natural and artificial flavorings, color and natural fruit citric acid, Karp said.

 



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Oh My Lolli!

Oh My Lolli!, 421 Mill Pond Lane, Brighton, MI

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