Photo Credit: Courtesy of Candy Girls Key West
How This Black-Owned Key West Candy Company Is Honoring The Past
The Key West, Florida that we see and hear about today, is one filled with wealthy people who move to the island after retirement. But, what you may not know is that the area once had a thriving Black community called Bahama Village. It was made up of Bahamian as well as Afro-Cuban descendants.
Lynne Casamayor, a native of the area, remembers that time very well. So much so, she is now honoring the legacy of Black candy makers through her company, Candy Girls Key West, while also giving back to local youth.
“I was born and raised in Key West,” Lynne Casamayor told Travel Noire. “I left, came back 30-years later and took a job with the local school district under a program called ‘Take Stock in Children.’
The program provides scholarships for youth in grades 7-10, who successfully complete the requirements. The primary focus is students who may go unnoticed because they don’t fall under the ‘economically disadvantaged’ or ‘star student’ categories. They are your everyday students who come, do their work, and graduate.
A part of Casamyor’s role includes actively seeking out students, specifically girls, from the area that look like her.
“I decided to start hosting meetups with the girls at my church on Saturdays, to give them something to do outside of spending hours on their devices. We put together different activities for them to do, to keep them active.”
While it initially took some trial and error to find something that interested the girls, Casamayor soon learned that traditional candy making was a keeper.
“We tried making beach bags, but that didn’t really work out,” she said. “I then remembered my childhood, and visiting the ladies in Bahama Village to buy homemade pulled peppermint and glass candy.”
Casamayor also recalls the delicious fudge her great-grandmother, Ma Vera, used to make. Ma Vera, who lived to be 107, was known for her delicious walnut fudge. Despite referencing the family recipe book, it wasn’t the same as Ma Vera’s. But, Casamayor was determined to find the missing link and perfect the recipe.
“I called my older aunt and she wasn’t very confident that we could pull it off. But, I continued experimenting until I finally got it right.”
To keep the tradition alive and to allow more people to experience a taste of homemade pulled peppermint, glass candy, and Ma Vera’s fudge, Casamayor officially launched Candy Girls Key West.
What makes the business venture so significant, is that the girls from the program are right there with her making the candy— and they love it. Casamayor also launched a scholarship program to help the girls out even more, as they move on to college.
The goal is to one day have a storefront, but for now, the candies can be shipped nationwide. Best sellers include the pulled peppermint, strawberry glass candy, and walnut fudge.
If you happen to be in Key West and want to purchase, Candy Girls Key West can typically turn your order around the same day.