A sweet souvenir

Award-winning toffee comes with a piece of Steamboat

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Peter DeWolf, owner of Mona's Tasty Toffee Co., with the toffee that won a blue ribbon at the Routt County Fair this summer.

— Peter DeWolf has come up with a product that he thinks will be popular at Christmas and during the rest of the year.

His sweet toffee creation does not stick to the molars, and it is easy to chew. And best of all? It's made in Steamboat Springs.

"Last Christmas, my girlfriend made some toffee from a recipe she had, and it was great," DeWolf said. "We were giving it out to friends and the response was, 'Gosh, you should sell this.'"

So that's what DeWolf and his girlfriend, Helen Olson, decided to do.

DeWolf started out small, but the toffee business is quickly taking more of his time, and he has big plans for Mona's Tasty Toffee Co.

He has a short-term lease to use the commercial kitchen in what used to be the Olde Milner Roadhouse 11 miles west of Steamboat on U.S. Highway 40. Baking takes place there a couple of times a week. The business operations for Mona's Toffee are based out of a space he shares with Lincoln Avenue Printers in a commercial strip on Loggers Lane.

Samples are available at the front counter.

"Everybody that comes in and sticks their hands in the basket for a taste is sold on it," said Lincoln Avenue Printers owner Tom Doerr.

DeWolf also shares the office space with his other business, Mona's Art to Go specialty framing shop.

His idea for marketing his toffee was pretty simple.

"If you're selling something, make it not just a delicious candy, but make it a souvenir," DeWolf said.

He carefully designed the packaging and logo to appeal to the person who was looking for a unique gift with a Steamboat connection.

"Proudly crafted in Steamboat Springs, Colorado," is printed under the logo. The Colorado Proud sticker on the side signifies it is registered with the organization that promotes Colorado products.

A magnet with one of six familiar Steamboat scenes is sealed underneath the cellophane wrapping on the top of each box holding eight ounces of toffee.

"It's the meshing of the two things that is key to the product," DeWolf said.

A lot of people helped Mona's Toffee get going, DeWolf said.

Lyon's Corner Drug owner Nancy Clapsaddle helped DeWolf test market the product, and Del Lockhart of F.M. Light & Sons gave DeWolf advice on merchandising.

The toffee is sold at both downtown stores and at Colorado Gift Gallery and Artisans Market.

Longtime Routt County resident Jo Semotan told DeWolf to enter the toffee at the Routt County Fair. It won first place.

DeWolf also looked to a more experienced local specialty foods expert for guidance. Terry Brown produces Wing-Time barbecue sauce in Steamboat and offered DeWolf direction, help and ideas.

"He didn't tell me what to do, but it was finding the resource to learn properly," DeWolf said.

Retired business executive Chan

Coyle also offered advice as a counselor with the Yampa Valley chapter of SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

"He's not really selling toffee," Coyle said. "He's selling a gift from a resort to someone who is visiting."

Coyle said DeWolf is an eternal optimist, a characteristic that is necessary to make such an idea work. But there are challenges he will face such as keeping up with candy production.

"How big could it be?" Coyle asked. "I don't know.

DeWolf said building a stable operation in Steamboat and expanding his product into other towns with resorts is his goal. He can be reached at 870-3400.

- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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