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Sweet life: Chocoholic banker saves Alabama candy store

As the owner of Decatur’s Morgan Price Candy Company, Nancy Curl is a self-proclaimed chocoholic.

“We are all very much addicted to chocolate,” Curl said as she motioned toward the beautifully wrapped gourmet candies on the table next to her.

Curl shares another connection to the confection on which she’s built her business – an unlikely journey.

Most customers never consider that their piece of chocolate candy began as a bean on a tree. And Curl never dreamed her banking career would lead her to owning and operating a candy store.

“I’d always thought, if I were to open my own business, it would be in fashion, not candy. But I love this. It just fits,” she said.

Curl graduated from the University of Alabama in 1972, and at the time, was one of the few women in the College of Commerce and Business Administration. With a degree in marketing and a concentration in retailing, she studied under the renowned UA professor and icon in the retail industry, Morris Mayer.

“Even though I left school and went into banking, I am glad I picked that major. The mentors I had, especially Dr. Mayer, were instrumental in my professional life,” Curl said.

After decades of a successful career in the banking industry, Curl retired in 2006.

With her daughter nearing high school graduation, Curl found herself with extra time on her hands. Curl started working part time and holidays for Mary Morgan at Morgan Price Candy Company – a store she frequented for chocolate and gifts.

Opportunity crops up

Sisters Mary Morgan and Margaret Price founded the business in 1987, making candy at Morgan’s home and selling via mail order. While Price left the business soon after, Morgan went on to grow it into a successful local candy store and gift shop.

Armed with their father’s praline recipe, Morgan made her mark in Decatur selling those famous pralines, as well as peanut brittle and English toffee for nearly 23 years.

When Morgan was ready to retire, Curl couldn’t stand the thought of losing the hometown treasure.

“Small businesses were so important to me, especially this one. It was just such a huge part of Decatur,” Curl said. “People here were proud to purchase something made in their community. Someone had to step up and save it, and I knew that person was me.”

Changes yield success

In July 2010, Curl bought the business, as well as an existing building on Sixth Avenue in Decatur. After three months of remodeling and renovating the space, Curl moved Morgan Price Candy Company there and opened on Oct. 25 of the same year.

That new location, she said, offered greater visibility and helped expand her customer base and grow her business.

This marks Curl’s eighth year as the owner of Morgan Price. While the original chocolate recipes, including the still popular English toffee, haven’t changed since she took over, she has added more than 30 types of candies – including two of her best-sellers – Angel Bites and Heavenly Bits.

Curl also extended the hours, staying open later and opening on Saturdays, as well, to accommodate those who work. The store’s open footprint allows for a large gift shop selection, as well as the chance for customers to watch the gourmet candies being made in the kitchen.

The future is sweet

Today, Morgan Price Candy has customers nationwide and provides a fun place to visit and shop when visiting North Alabama. The store’s English toffee is on the list of “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.”

While Curl’s journey to candy store owner was somewhat unlikely, it also makes perfect sense. Owning the business has allowed her to combine her retailing education, banking expertise and love for people and her community.

“I love spending my days here. We all say, we love working here because we feel like everyone leaves happy. And not just that … happy with chocolate!” she said.

(Courtesy of Alabama Retail Association.)