CORNVILLE — When Janet and Dave Bernard were driving through central Maine in 1995 in search of “a whole other world” and “a quiet lifestyle” to call home, the spot tucked away at 949 West Ridge Road was exactly what they had in mind.

“We were driving down the road searching for a property to buy,” Janet Bernard said, “and once we stepped on the property, I just knew.”

In 1999, the couple finished building their home with space to open Nelson’s Candies, which originated in 1914 when Janet (Nelson) Bernard’s great-grandfather, Allen Mack Nelson, opened his shop.

Twenty years later, the couple are celebrating two decades of making candy out of their Cornville home, using family recipes and equipment that have been passed down through generations.

The candy is made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients, when available.

Nelson’s Candies originated in Lowell, Mass., where Allen Nelson created his recipes and skills, made the candies, sold them at local fairs and passed his knowledge onto his children, who have carried on the business.

The shop and the Nelson family over the years have migrated to other locations, including Hampton, New Hampshire and Vermont.

The couple’s Cornville shop is open seasonally, though the couple work year-round to fill special orders and attend fairs, including Cornville’s 10 Mile Yard Sale.

Janet Bernard introduced her husband, Dave, to candy making. A southern New Hampshire native, he said he always found himself back in Maine.

“I’ve always been up in this area,” Dave Bernard said. “We ended up finding the property, buying the land and built the house with a show room. We stay busy between fairs and running the shop.”

Janet began making candy when she was 15 years old, helping her family at flea markets and fairs.

“I worked with my father in the candy kitchen, where he taught me how to make barley sugar pops in my grandfather’s kitchen,” Janet said.

From there, she persuaded two specialty stores to sell her candy to their customers and learned how to do everything else.

Janet Bernard said she did not initially jump into the business, but came back to it at age 25 after being laid off from a job at a grocery store.

Janet Bernard, left, and her husband, Dave, of Nelson’s Candies, discusses a copper kettle that has been in the business for generations.

“I called my dad when I lost my job and he helped me tremendously,” Janet said. “I spent a lot of time hanging out in his shop.

“(My family) provided me with the stepping stones that I needed to reach to get to this point here in Cornville. My dad was a great teacher, and I still call him up and ask him questions. He’s always there and available to help when I’m in a bind.”

Her father, Doug Nelson, helped the couple repair a 1923 KISS candy wrapping machine, which they acquired several years ago from another candy maker. The machine was not working when the couple acquired it. The couple sent out parts to be repaired, but it still was not wrapping quite right.

Janet decided to haul the 1,000-pound machine to her father in New Hampshire, where he worked on it in his garage for a few weeks until he was able to get it running.

“It runs like new now,” she said.

The machine can wrap up to 100 pieces of caramel in one minute.

Janet Bernard, right, of Nelson’s Candies, and longtime customer Sally Goodridge, of Pittsfield, embrace Dec. 5 as Goodridge shops the Cornville business.

Equipment that has been passed down through the generations include a special copper kettle that Janet recently received, and molds from the original store that are on display at the Cornville shop.

Janet and Dave Bernard say the support they receive from the community is important to keeping the store open.

Sally Goodridge, for example, has been shopping at the store since it opened. She said good spirits and kindness are what bring her back each year.

“I’ve been coming here for a time,” said Goodridge, of Pittsfield. “I usually come in with a list, and keep coming back because it’s a good, family-run business and their personalities are just great.”

The couple said that through the decades, they have looked forward to the continued support they receive from the community.

“The support that we’ve received over the years is wonderful,” Janet said. “We have been very well-received, and I love seeing familiar faces here every holiday season.”

The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays until Christmas Eve, and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Candy can be purchased at the store or through www.nelsonscandies.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.