Rural Missouri - February 2020 - 11
It didn't take long for the candy business to overtake
the restaurant. The Bankheads built the business over decades eventually selling it. The store changed hands multiple times and Laura's mom, Mary Orf, became manager
of the shop in the 1970s and worked for 15 years before
buying it herself.
"It's very labor intensive work. Working on the concrete,
it gets to your knees, your back," the candymaker says.
"After owning it for five years, she said she was ready to
Mary indicated she would simply lock the doors if she
was unable to sell it in a year. "I told her, 'You can't do
that. You've got all of these businesses that depend on you
for what you make. I said if you can't sell it, I'll buy it.' I
think that's the point she quit looking," Laura says with a
She has undoubtedly carried on the storied tradition of
the shop during her 24 years of ownership. That is especially true in early February when customers can't get
enough of the handdipped chocolate strawberries.
"The week of Valentine's Day is nonstop,"
Laura says, "We have
flats of strawberries
ready and we are constantly hand dipping
and packaging them."
Laura employs a
machine that keeps the
chocolate in constant
motion and regulates
the exact temperature,
to be dipped at a faster
pace. "That was a great
investment," she says.
"One-half a degree or a
full degree off is a big
strawberries aren't hard
to find at supermarkets
or big box stores, but Laura says there's a reason customers keep walking through Bankhead's door instead. "I feel
like the hand dipping is a lost art and that's what we're
While the berries may steal the show in February, there
is no doubt what the star of the show is the rest of the year
"The turtles are by far our most popular," Laura says.
"What sets ours apart from everyone else is that original
caramel recipe that Mr. Bankhead perfected. We use quality cream, sugar and butter."
The delicious mixture of caramel, pecans and chocolate
are handmade in Bankhead's kitchen and sold in the store
and shipped around the country, especially during the
busy holiday season.
Laura and her team stay busy by making about four
65-pound batches of turtles per day in December. "I had
no idea of the demand at Christmas time when I first took
over," Laura says. "I didn't have one piece of chocolate left
in the store on Christmas Eve that year."
Customer Gene Scranton is doing his part to lighten
Laura's supply of turtles. He drives over the Mississippi
from Illinois just to visit the sweet shop and picks up more
than 50 boxes of turtles to give to his clients every December.
"I've never had anything that wasn't good," he says. "It's
always consistent and everyone appreciates getting them.
And Laura treats everyone really good. It's a great smalltown business."
Laura leans on Bankhead's past when she can. The
original cooking kettle is on display just as you walk in the
store and she creates most of her candies on an 8-footlong, 6-inch-thick marble table that was first used by T.J.
"It keeps the heat even and things don't stick to the
marble," she says.
friend Sherry Lynn
joined Laura to help at
Bankhead's for "what
was supposed to be a
few weeks," 20 years
ago. Sherry can still
be found hand dipping
turtles or tending to
customers at the store.
"I really like dipping
the candy," she says.
"Just the outcome of
it. People always leave
here in a better mood
because of the box
of candy they picked
With a century-old
reputation of dishing
has become a destination.
"The best compliments we get around here is when people stop in and tell
us whenever they get within 45 minutes or an hour of our
store they'll go ahead and take the extra time to jog up
here," Laura says.
Bankhead's reputation, commitment to quality and
friendly service keep customers coming back in what can
sometimes be a tough rural marketplace.
"It can be tough," Laura says. "Brick and mortar shops
are going by the wayside. Being in a rural community, I
think the most important thing is to be honest. And if you
just treat people the way you want to be treated, you'll be
successful no matter what you do."
"What sets ours
apart from everyone
else is that original
caramel recipe Mr.
For more information on Bankhead's Candies, visit
www.bankheadscandies.com or call 573-324-2312. Bankhead's is closed for renovations in January and will reopen
on Feb. 4.
FEBRUARY 2020 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP
Rural Missouri - February 2020
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2020
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