Katie Kelly had some criteria for her fiancé before they got married: she didn’t want to just be partners in the traditional sense, but also business partners. When her future husband, Peter, mentioned the toffee he was making in his basement, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Little did the couple know how committed they would both be to the candy-making project. Today they own Anchor Toffee, a small-batch confectioner that got its start at Hope & Main in Warren in 2014.
Today, Anchor has an elegant storefront in Newport, and you can order their toffee, caramels, and lollipops from their online store. Kelly is quick to mention that the toffee is not a family recipe, but one that has been gradually crafted to perfection, down to the ounce. We recently talked with Kelly about the fine art of toffee making.
How did you get from Hope & Main to Bowen’s Wharf?
Hope & Main allowed us to start the process and get [our product] out there for people to try a really good toffee. We’ve been wholesaling out of there and done farmers markets, and then a year ago in May, Bowen’s Wharf in Newport wrote us an email and said, “We have a retail store, do you want it?” We were between yes and no; they wanted a two-year contract, which was tough with my husband’s full-time job and a four-year-old. So, we did just the summer, and two months in, we decided we weren’t leaving. We signed a two-year contract.
Anchor Toffee seems destined to be a Rhode Island staple. Has that happened yet?
Rhode Islanders would say our branding is specific to them with the anchor on the flag, and Newport and all, but the way my husband and I came to it is not because of that. I grew up on the Cape and every holiday was suit-and-tie, so [we were] throwing around the idea of prep and the blue blazer. The anchor is also symbolic of the Marines, and both of our fathers were Marines, so it’s a play on that. My dad’s name starts with A and his dad’s starts with T, and both of them have passed, so it’s a tribute to that as well.
We were sitting in a room with a designer, and we went over what we wanted, and he gave us boards of this and that, and then he asked us to come up with a name. My husband is very much a word person, and we had talked and talked and talked about it, and he just says, “What about Anchor Toffee?” And we were done.
Tell me a little bit about your varieties.
Our signature is our Almond Butter Toffee. Since opening the store, we have done a nut-free [variety] and an almond butter toffee with no chocolate called Naked Almond Toffee.
I did a small batch where we took the butter out and replaced it with coconut milk for those with dairy allergies. It worked and it was beautiful. That has become a big hit.
How has the response been since opening on Bowen’s Wharf?
When people try the samples, they are usually very quiet and then they taste it and they are like, “Oh my gosh!” We did an event yesterday and people were picking it up and then walking away – and then turning back around and saying it was the best thing they had all night. Some guy turned to me and said, “I know what heaven tastes like now.”
8 Bowen’s Wharf, Newport • 401-619-1044