A candy store inspired by a sweet childhood

Brianna Large, who learned how to make candy and chocolate from her grandmother and hung out in her aunt’s sweet shop, opens Handmade with Love in Grafton
Ozaukee Press staff

Brianna Large learned to work with candies and chocolate at her grandmother’s knee and got her introduction into the business of candy when she was 12.

“I learned everything from my grandma (Shirley Large),” Large said.

Now, the 30-year-old Large has started her own candy business, Handmade with Love, in downtown Grafton.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” she said.

“I want to be the old-fashioned mom-and-pop shop where you want to go with your family. I want to know my customers’ names. I want people to be part of my family.”

Her shop features an assortment of sweets that range from the handmade chocolates that Large fashions by hand to ice cream and commercial candies, many of which are difficult to find today.

“I want to bring back the stuff you can’t find except maybe in a random hardware store,” Large said. “I want people to feel like it’s a trip back to childhood.”

Everyday is a trip back to childhood for Large, who grew up hanging out and learning in her aunt Mary Jane Bravi’s sweet shop, Mary Jane’s Confectionery, in Cedarburg.

“It was fun,” she said.

But she went into the medical field once she got out of school, working as a certified nursing assistant and an administrative assistant at Newcastle Place in Mequon and later as an emergency medical technician with the Fredonia Fire Department.

But in between, she returned to her first love, chocolates. When Bravi retired, Large’s cousin took over the business and she worked for him until he decided to sell.

“I was too chicken to buy it when he wanted to sell,” she said.

But she remained with the business, then named Ashley’s, for several years before resuming her medical career.

“Then Covid hit and I was sick of it,” Large said.

She hadn’t been doing any chocolate work for two years, Large said, and she realized she missed it. So she began making sweets for family and friends out of her house.

A Grafton resident, Large had been driving past the vacant Downtown Pizza building on Wisconsin Avenue “all the time,” and the building turned out to be the key to her business.

She talked to the owner, walked through and said “Sure, let’s do this.”

She planned to open in April but, as happens so often, the preparation took longer than expected. She opened the doors of Handmade with Love on June 13.

“It’s been really good,” she said. “Once people started to realize we were here, it’s been great.”

There are other candy shops around, Large said, but she said most have taken a more “corporate” approach instead of the more family-friendly approach she’s after.

She offers candies that start at a dime — “There’s no more penny candy,” she said — but her biggest sellers are the handmade chocolates she crafts.

“I haven’t been able to keep apples here,” she said late last week.

Truffles are among the biggest sellers, particularly raspberry and caramel ones, as are chocolate covered strawberries.

“They’re popular, especially for events,” Large said, including weddings and baby and bridal showers.

One week, she said, she made 175 strawberries.

Caramel apples and turtles are also popular, as are cocoa bombs.

For the holidays, people enjoy her decorated Oreos and Nutter Butter reindeer — “My grandma made them a couple times, so I had to keep them going,” Large said.

“I already have Christmas orders from people,” she said.

Large said she enjoys doing custom orders for people.

“People bring me a picture of stuff they want and I try to replicate it,” she said. “I like a challenge.”

And the detail work of fancy candies is something she enjoys, Large said.

“I used to say, ‘I’m not creative. I can’t draw. I can’t do art,’” she said. “But this is art.”

One thing she has had to fight is the perception that her shop is a bakery, Large said.

“I can’t bake,” she said. “And even if I could, the chocolate would hate me because it would get too hot in here.”

Chocolate, she said, can be temperamental.

“It has to be cool, and the humidity can’t been high,” she said.

Large said she loves being her own boss and filling her days with sweets, bringing joy to her customers.

But one of her favorite times are when her son Levi, who turns 4 this week, comes to visit the shop.

“He tells everyone, ‘My mama has a candy store,’” she said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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