It’s a well-kept Grand Valley that’s no secret: Enstrom Candies’ caramel is the best.
Whenever we want some of this delicious sweetness, we’ll just pick it up from the original store, thank you very much. Except August 31.
That Wednesday, the Enstrom retail store in downtown Grand Junction was closed.
Where lattes are usually made behind the cafe counter, a huge monitor was set up and displayed feeds from cameras around the store and Enstrom’s candy-making rooms.
Instead of patrons surrounding chocolate displays, there were smaller monitors and cameras facing tables with slices of almond caramel stacked just like that.
But Enstrom had many customers that day. Thousands, in fact, across the country and beyond.
Commercial television network QVC was live from Enstrom Candies and two-pound cans of almond caramel were flying out the door.
“It was fabulous,” said Doug Simons, president of Enstrom Candies.
The Grand Junction confectioner has been selected to be the final stop in QVC’s Foodie Travel Series with host Mary DeAngelis.
Simons, along with his wife, Jamee Simons, and one of their sons, Doug Simons Jr., appeared with DeAngelis on two QVC shows that took viewers to Enstrom’s and Grand Junction.
“We were probably on for 10 to 12 minutes each show,” Doug said. “And we sold about 10,000 two-pound cans of almond caramel.”
Enstrom’s was the top-selling product for both shows — “Gourmet Holiday” in the morning and “In the Kitchen with David” in the afternoon, Doug said.
It was great not only to sell so much almond caramel, but also to have DeAngelis and a 15-member QVC TV crew in the Grand Valley filming in Enstrom as well as downtown Grand Junction and the Colorado National Monument, he said.
“It’s just a remarkable opportunity to be presented in this way,” he said. “It’s very important for us, but also for our community.”
GO TO AIR
Enstrom’s relationship with QVC, which is short for Quality Value Convenience, began about seven years ago.
The sons, Jim and Doug Simons Jr., were manning a booth at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City when they were approached by representatives from TO Epps & Associates, a company that sources and promotes products from QVC.
TO Epps introduced Enstrom to QVC, and Doug Simons soon found himself at QVC’s studios in West Chester, Pennsylvania as an on-air guest.
Basically, they want to know if you can be on live TV without ruining it, he said. Can you joke with a host and guests calling a show? Can you speak fluently, spontaneously and with solid product knowledge?
“I was a music and theater student,” Doug said, referring to his days at what is now Colorado Mesa University. “I’m not shy behind the mic.”
After training, he began appearing for show segments. He would fly to Philadelphia and spend two nights in a hotel for about 10 minutes on QVC.
It took a lot of effort for those 10 minutes of airtime, but getting exposure to QVC’s huge domestic and international audience and the big sales figures that come with it made the trips totally worthwhile, a he declared.
When the pandemic hit, QVC switched to Skype to bring in remote guests. It was a “huge bonus,” Doug said.
He could still interact with hosts and customers and talk about the sweet and buttery goodness of almond caramel without leaving the Grand Valley.
But bringing QVC to Grand Valley has been the best experience yet.
DISCOVER THE VALLEY
During QVC’s stop in the Grand Valley, the Simons family did their best to pass on the goodness of Enstrom’s Almond Toffee as well as the amazing characteristics of the community around Enstrom.
The crew filmed along Main Street as Doug Simons explained to DeAngelis about the Art on the Corner sculpture exhibit and the Legends of the Grand Valley sculptures, including the bronze of Enstrom founders Chet and Vernie Enstrom. which is located at the corner of Seventh and Main streets. .
“They loved the sandwiches at The Hog and The Hen,” Doug said. The crew ordered Pablo’s Pizza for their closing dinner after filming.
“They went awry about our ice cream,” he said.
The QVC crew also made two trips to the top of the Colorado National Monument to film the Grand Valley sprawling in golden light. On one such trip, a camera captured footage of a desert bighorn sheep posing and trotting atop the low rocky ledge of a recess overlooking the valley.
It’s “a fabulous video” and you can’t get better marketing exposure for the Valley than that, said Jamee Simons, vice president of marketing for Enstrom’s.
Video of the desert bighorn sheep, as well as live videos and social media clips of QVC’s visit to the Grand Valley can be viewed on YouTube.com and on the Facebook pages of Enstrom Candies and “Mary DeAngelis QVC”.
“They were so excited. You can just tell they loved being in Grand Junction and seeing how we make our candy,” Jamee said. “They were very, very warm and responsive, and that was really cool.”
CARAMEL FOR GENERATIONS
Doug and Jamee Simons are the third generation of the Enstrom family to own and operate Enstrom Candies. They joined the business in 1979 when it was owned by Jamee’s parents, Emil and Mary Enstrom, who had purchased it from Emil’s parents, Chet and Vernie Enstrom.
“My grandparents, when they started the candy business, thought they would make a little ice cream in the summer and a little candy at Christmas,” Jamee said. “They didn’t know that here we sell today on national television. … I’m sure they would be surprised.
“Usually it’s the third generation that takes it into the ground,” Doug said. “We have had magnificent growth.
By 1979, Enstrom Candies was doing half a million dollars a year in sales as a mail order company. Today, “I think we’re making about $28 million,” Doug said in an October article in The Daily Sentinel after being inducted into the National Confectionery Sales Association’s Candy Hall of Fame. “We could crack 30 this year. … Considering where we come from, it’s a pretty incredible story.
Now, the fourth generation, Doug Jr. and Jim Simons, are taking more and more leadership at Enstrom’s, and when the QVC team was at the downtown store, Doug Simons Jr. had to make an appearance. Jim was out of town to attend a sales show in San Diego.
“Personally, I don’t like cameras. … and they were here and there were cameras everywhere,” Doug Simons Jr. said.
In addition to the cameras in the store, there were cameras all over the building, including some hanging from ceiling vents to get overhead shots of the almond toffee making. “They were so talented,” he said of the QVC squad. “They literally came in and knocked him out.”
But it was still nerve-wracking to be in front of the cameras knowing they were live, he admitted.
At 6-foot-8, he towered over DeAngelis and his parents as they talked about how Enstrom’s Almond Toffee is made and how Chet Enstrom’s original Butterscotch recipe is still faithfully followed. “Candy doesn’t stunt your growth,” he joked on air.
At some point, he or his brother will have to appear more regularly in front of QVC cameras like their father did, he said.
“I’m more qualified,” Doug Simons Jr. joked. “I’m smarter and better looking.”
PROMOTING CARAMEL, THE VALLEY
“There’s candy and then there’s Enstrom. And there’s caramel and then there’s Enstrom. … You want to grab this now,” DeAngelis told QVC patrons in Grand Junction as the hosts returned to the network’s studio, nodding in agreement.
The almond caramel in dark chocolate or milk chocolate that was sold on August 31 will be made and shipped in October and November. That’s ideal since toffee is a perishable product and because Enstrom’s toffee making gets dark from May through September due to the hot weather, Doug said.
The Aug. 31 sales were good for Enstrom’s fourth quarter and for the vacation-minded customer, while showcasing the Grand Valley, he said.
He and Jamee – along with their sons – are very involved in the community, serving on boards of directors as part of various organizations. “We just have a wonderful team of employees,” he said.
They are a family invested in the Grand Valley and eager to use their business to promote not only their products, but the community, he said. That’s exactly what QVC was doing in Grand Junction.
“It was really great to have them here,” said Doug Simons. “We’ve put Grand Junction on the map for toffee lovers across the country and around the world.”