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BUSINESS PLAN

A sweet family venture, now in its fourth generation

South Shore candy makers are keeping things fresh

Handout

All in the family business: From left, Judy Hilliard McCarthy, Erin McCarthy Fernandez, Maegan McCarthy, and Tamrah Comprone.

By Paul E. Kandarian Globe Correspondent 

Hilliards Chocolates in Easton started out as a candy store in 1924 in Quincy’s Wollaston section, founded by Perley and Jessie Hilliard. The family-owned business is now in its fourth generation, owned by Judy McCarthy, a granddaughter of the founders, and her husband, Charlie, who run it with daughters Maegan McCarthy, 32, and Erin Fernandez, 37. In addition to its headquarters, store, and manufacturing site in Easton, the company also has stores in Norwell and Mansfield. We talked to Judy McCarthy for this story.

Q. Has there always been such a strong female presence in the business?

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A. Yes, from the beginning and up to the present. I love working with my daughters, and our general manager, Tamrah Comprone, who started here at 16, is like another daughter to me. It’s a great bunch of girls working together with new ideas to keep things going.

Q. Speaking of new ideas: What’s new at Hilliards?

A. One of the newest things is our beer brittle, a recent trend we heard about from a candy company in California. We partnered with Shovel Town Brewery in Easton. It adds a nice flavor to the brittle; the beer comes through at the end. It’s buttery at first, and then the peanut flavor comes in -- and then the beer. It’s really good, and we love partnering with local businesses.

Q. What’s growth been like?

A. It gets better every year; in 1981, we bought the company from uncles and aunts at a time it wasn’t doing that well, but we took on the challenge, grew the business, and brought on more people, and opened up two more locations. We’ve got about 75 employees, and many have been here for decades. Really, it’s like a big family.

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Q. When’s the busy season?

A. Christmas; we’re out straight all of December. The three big days are Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter.

Q. How do you decide on what kind of candy to make?

A. Years ago, the family would sit around the table and taste candy, argue about it, and then decide on what tasted the best. When we took over, we needed to come up with new things. But one thing that hasn’t really changed is something my father always said: You make what tastes best to you. And fortunately, our customers seem to agree.


Paul E Kandarian can be reached at pkandarian@aol.com.