How a Father-Son Duo Took Their Toffee from a Firehouse to Store Shelves

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Business is sweet for Andrew and Dave Chmielewski. Here's the story behind their Detroit toffee company.

We know that firehouse kitchens are often full of excellent cooks and some stellar recipes. But what about candy makers?

Dave Chmielewski, a Detroit firefighter, started stirring up toffee in his home kitchen more than 10 years ago. Soon enough, word had spread from the firehouse to surrounding neighborhoods about Dave’s signature toffee.

At home, Dave’s phone was ringing off the hook with orders from friends, friends of friends and beyond. Soon every square inch of counter space was covered in hand-sliced almonds, and the garage was full of packed orders.

It was then—in this toffee tornado—that Dave’s son Andrew realized that this was more than a great toffee recipe. It was a business in the making.

Expanding the Business

The two founded Dave’s Sweet Tooth Toffee, allowing this crunchy-but-won’t-break-a-tooth toffee to reach even more candy fanatics.

The company soon reached new heights, appearing on Good Morning America and moving into a 10,000-square-foot facility overseen by Andrew. The operation produces about 25,000 pounds of toffee a month.

How Dave’s Sweet Tooth Toffee Is Made

Andrew and Dave Chmielewski inspecting their toffeeTaste of Home

“We make it the same way my dad used to make it,” Andrew says. The components are simple—butter, sugar, chocolate, almonds, and the creative additions mixed in to make specialty flavors.

Ingredients, like Michigan-made Pioneer Sugar and cherries grown just a few hours away, are chosen both for flavor and for their ties to the community.

For the company’s coffee flavor, Andrew orders about 100 pounds of beans a week from a local roaster he’s frequented for years. “We could save a ton of money on coffee beans, but we like to support other local businesses—and the quality is great,” he says.

What the Future Holds

Close-up of hands working the toffeeTaste of Home

Dave is retired and no longer involved in day-to-day operations, but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped making toffee.

“You could say I run the off-site test kitchen,” he says with a laugh.

One of his latest creations is Coconut Pretzel; he’s a fan of the salty-sweet flavor combination. You can look for more of Dave’s ideas coming to stores, sites like QVC and their online shop.

So, How Does It Taste?

Dave sent us a few bags of toffee so we could understand why people buy it by the case. And we totally get it.

“It’s buttery-soft, and not too sweet,” says Taste of Home deputy editor Rachel Seis. “I liked all the flavors, but the Dark Chocolate Cherry was a standout.”

Food editor Rashanda Cobbins is partial to the classic Milk Chocolate flavor. “It’s the perfect office snack,” she says.

Try Dave’s Sweet Tooth Toffee

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Mandy Naglich
Mandy is a food and beverage writer with bylines at WNYC, Munchies, Mic and October. She's a Certified Cicerone and award-winning homebrewer living, writing and cooking in New York City.
Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.