Community mourns beloved Wilton candy-maker

  • Douglas Nelson making candy the old-fashioned way at Nelson’s Candy in Wilton. Ashley Saari – staff File photo

  • Douglas Nelson making candy the old-fashioned way at Nelson's Candy in Wilton. File photo—Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/15/2021 5:03:08 PM

Doug Nelson opened up his candy shop on Main Street in Wilton in 1994, hoping to find a quieter place than his previous venue to ply his craft of candy-making, according to Dick Putnam.

“Little did he know what was to come,” wrote Putnam, who owned Putnam’s Clothing store on Main Street before his retirement.

Nelson died on July 7, and the Wilton community has come together to express how much he will be missed.

“This guy created probably, besides the theater, the anchor attraction in Wilton,” said Jennifer Beck, Chair of Wilton’s economic development team. “People who were visitors and tourists who were passing through came to Wilton just to go to the candy store.”

“He was a gruff guy, but he had a heart of gold,” said Kermit Williams, member of the town Select Board.

Nelson opened the shop in 1994 and spent many seasons dedicating himself to the art of making candy, especially holiday-themed candies. Many from the town fondly recall him making huge Christmas candy canes come December – an endeavor that Putnam said was a team effort, often requiring the help of friends and neighbors.

“It’s tradition,” Nelson said of the long and involved process one year, “so we’ve got to make candy canes at Christmas.”

Nelson sold the business to Nancy Feraco in 2019 , and the shop continued to thrive. When the hand-off occurred, Nelson chose not to retire quite yet, but to stay and help train the new candy-makers. He said at the time that he had confidence in Feraco and the future of the store, because of her determination and passion.

“I could see she was really interested in it,” said Nelson in 2019. “There’s a lot of processes. We had to fix all these things and do all this paperwork. She never gave up.”

Beck said that Nelson had received other offers from buyers who were planning to move the business, but he refused to sell to someone who would uproot the candy store.

“Doug, thank you for keeping the candy shop in town,” Beck said, “because it’s been a catalyst for a lot of other stuff. People have discovered Wilton’s Main Street, and Doug was a big part of why that happened.”

Feraco wrote a tribute to Nelson on Facebook, remembering Nelson’s impact and his guidance as he handed over the reins to his shop.

“Doug served as a teacher, confident, and cheerleader for the new group of candy-makers at Nelson’s,” Feraco wrote.

“More than a mentor, he was a loyal and loving friend,” she added. “He lit up the candy kitchen with energy and laughter the second he arrived.”

In addition to being a candy-maker, Nelson was also a musician. He opened Local’s Cafe, which drew bands from all over New England, and was a member of the Sweet Tooth Band.

“Maybe aside from his family, his real love was not just sugar, it was blues,” Beck said.

“He truly made a lasting mark on our business district that will be honored and remembered for generations to come,” Putnam wrote on his personal blog. “May he keep playing and sweetening the universe for all time.”

“He will be missed for a long, long time,” said Beck, “but he was a legend in his own time.”

“Doug’s passing leaves a large hole in our hearts and in the hearts of many others in our community,” Feraco wrote. “ ‘What would Doug do?’ is a constant mantra here at Nelson’s Candy, and that will not be changing anytime soon.”

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