This is My Story.
This is My Story.
Watch Jamie’s Video
‘It was the first time he asked for my help. I didn’t even hesitate.’
Jamie Weatherford always knew the call would come – the call that would take him back to Macon, Georgia, where he grew up; the call to work in his family’s candy company that his grandfather, E.L. Brooking, purchased in the 1960s.
A couple of years out of college, Weatherford was living in Charleston, South Carolina with plans to open a restaurant. When the request finally came, Weatherford says, “My father called and asked me to come home. It was the first time he ever asked for my help. I didn’t even hesitate.”
Weatherford describes his father as “a sharp man.” Knowing his dad had bigger plans for him, he got started working on the plant floor, to learn the business. Thirteen years later, it has become a family affair. His father is the owner, Weatherford is now the plant manager of Crown Candy Corp., and his brother-in-law has since joined the team.
‘Our product reminds people of simpler times.’
Weatherford’s grandfather believed in helping people, supporting the community, and producing only classic candies that would give people a sense of nostalgia. After being courted by the local chamber, he moved Crown Candy from Atlanta to Macon in 1969. As a child in the 1980s, Weatherford remembers taking class field trips to his family’s candy factory and how they could sample warm macaroons right off the plant line. He loved visiting the plant and realized even then, that his grandfather hoped he’d be involved in the family business one day.
Weatherford carries on more than just his grandfather’s traditional recipes, but also his willingness to give back to the community and his belief in people.
‘We’ve all made mistakes in life. I was raised to believe that everyone deserves a second chance.’
When Weatherford came to work for Crown Candy, the company was working with the Department of Corrections, employing incarcerated individuals through a work-release program. Over the years, Weatherford has continued to develop the program which has become an employment feeder for the seasonal work at the candy plant and in return has become a rehabilitation program for inmates.
“Most people are extremely grateful for the opportunity,” he says. Since he’s worked at the plant, Weatherford and his team have been able to retain approximately 70 percent of the people they have employed from the correctional center. But to him, the deeper success is about helping them become productive members of society. He says, “Nothing makes me happier than having someone start working here that has had issues in the past and watching them show up to work on time, become respectful, and find a job that will pay them enough to support themselves and their families.”
‘It’s not about what people have done in the past but what they do today.’
Weatherford says, “Everyone has made mistakes in their lives. It’s not important to me what they did in the past, but instead what they are doing today.” He further explains how difficult it can be to transition back into the real world once released from jail and how programs like these give people money and a place to stay so that they can get back on their feet.
His face lights up when he talks about one person very close to him. She was hired to work in the plant through the work-release program around the same time that Weatherford joined the business. Today, she has turned her life around, is a grandmother of nine , and an integral part of the Crown Candy team. She has worked her way up to a supervisor position and has become a mentor and “motherly figure” to other women working in the plant who are going through similar situations. Weatherford calls her an “amazing person and one he is proud to have as part of his team.”
‘It’s about giving back to the community you live in.’
Weatherford brings these same beliefs and values home with him. He has become very involved with his community; participating in Leadership Georgia’s Class of 2013, a select group that visits industry across the state, and by being a part of the Macon Made initiative, which promotes the local maker movement, as well as Georgia Grown that encourages the sourcing of their product from Georgia resources. Additionally, both he and his wife, Jessica Walden, are very involved in local art and music projects – they both served in different roles in the annual Bragg Jam Music Festival, which raises money for the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, and Walden works for the College Hill Alliance to catalyze neighborhood revitalization from Mercer University to Downtown Macon through the College Hill Corridor.
‘Macon is a fascinating place. There’s a rich history.’
As the “self-proclaimed family historian,” Weatherford can tell you everyone’s birthdays, anniversaries, and even the day his sister moved back to Macon. He also can tell you dates and stories of Macon’s most relevant music history. “I have always been involved in music and music has been instrumental in my life,” Weatherford says. It’s only fitting then, that he would marry Walden. As the daughter and niece of music producers that helped launch the careers of Otis Redding and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Walden had years of industry stories to tell. Together in 2011, they took their passion of giving back to the community and combined it with their knowledge of music history to launch Rock Candy Tours, a walking tour company, to showcase Macon’s musical legacy.
In the same way his grandfather did for him, Weatherford is excited to be able to pass these traditions, stories, and beliefs onto his young son.
‘In two years we will be celebrating Crown Candy’s 100 year anniversary.’
Crown Candy is about to celebrate its 100-year anniversary and the company has been in Weatherford’s family for more than half of that time. The family plans to carry on the legacy by staying true to their original recipes, that according to Weatherford, “remind people of the simpler times” and traditional values in which the company was founded.
As a third-generation candy manufacturer, Weatherford plans to continue making a name for himself with the people in his company that he believes in and within the community that he is proud to call his home.
Jamie Weatherford was nominated for Faces of Manufacturing by Jessica Walden
About Crown Candy Corp.
Crown Candy Corp. was founded by two Georgia Tech students in Atlanta in the early 1900s. During the Great Depression, the business fell on hard times and was sold to E.L. Brooking, who had been working for another candy business at the time. In 1969, Crown Candy signed on to relocate its business operations from Atlanta to one of the first industrial parks in Macon. The company reopened its doors in 1971. Today Crown Candy employs up to 180 people at the height of the candy season and produces more than 150,000 pounds of candy per day. Crown Candy products are found in big-name retail stores along with mom and pop seasonal stores. Specializing in nostalgic candy such as pecan divinity, pecan logs, and peanut brittle, Crown Candy is the largest supplier of coconut candies in the United States. The company’s original manufacturing plant, its name still on the side of the building, stands in Grant Park, a neighborhood just east of downtown Atlanta. It has been converted into a community of 21 unique residential loft spaces.