When she was 12 years old, B.G. Purcell's dad just married a woman who took to caramels as a way to bond.
I remember the first time she taught me how to make them and she introduced them to me as the family tradition around the holidays.
Purcell grew warmer to this woman, Jane Drake Cummings, as someone she could look up to and learn from.
Making caramels was a highlight she and the family looked forward to every year.
The sweet treats stopped when Drake Cummings suffered Lymphoma, twice.
The last bout in 2007 brought on the idea to create a nonprofit to sell caramels to benefit cancer research.
That proved more difficult than they anticipated. With thinking caps on, Purcell decided she should start a store, and donate a portion of the proceeds to charity.
It fell perfectly into what Purcell wanted to do: have a job that she can mold around her two young children, and make more money.
(It takes a long time to get to that second goal, she said looking back.)
A landscape architect turned candy woman, Purcell went to Johns Hopkins, where her father was a surgeon and Drake Cummings sat on the Women's Board, and asked if they would sell the caramels in their gift shop.
First, they had to think of a name.
Something that lives up to the mouth watering, decadent, family renowned caramels.
We spent days with a list, crossing out names, and it just really was the epitome of what I hope is the experience where it tastes good, you can't talk while you're eating one because you are just enjoying it, and it should just make you smile.
Perfect! The candies did very well in the gift shop and word got around about the homemade treats.
Purcell considers them old fashioned gourmet caramels, made from the five generations old recipe.
It's still, sugar, butter (a lot of butter), and cream.
Some of the candies are blanketed in chocolate, others with the Old Bay seasoning, appealing to all Marylanders who like caramel.
As Mouth Party grew, Purcell experienced the same fluctuation any small business owner goes through.
Amount of product versus interest versus capability to make said product.
Purcell faced two floods at her location in Clipper Mill, first April 30, 2014, then again July 30, 2016.
They had to move, to a small building at Miss Shirley's guest parking lot in the Keswick neighborhood.
It was half the size, but now the crew is closer, working in basically the same room.
You can see how tight-knit they are, from the company photo, a cartoon impression of the 10 people who work there, to what's playing on their portable speaker.
Purcell said it's truly still a family effort.
Keith comes in early in the morning to combine the sugar and butter, melting and stirring constantly, then adding cream and vanilla later.
It takes about an hour to make these caramels.
Once they're cooled and hard, Dani goes to work, putting the caramels through a slicing machine, cross hatching them into bite sized pieces.
Once they're cut, Emily and Dani go to either Bessie or Mimi to start wrapping.
These machines are more than 40 years old, and can be pretty finicky.
Purcell said they have personalities and are known to kick out caramels that aren't perfectly squared.
She says the humidity is to blame, which is why in this facility they can only wrap on drier days.
This is only temporary. Purcell just signed a lease for a new place in Timonium, that's much bigger.
There's a lot on the horizon for Mouth Party, new products, and new equipment to cut down on cooking time.
Over 10 years, they've stayed true to their mission and the old caramel recipe.
10 percent of their proceeds go to these organizations.
- The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
- HopeWell Cancer Support
- The American Cancer Society Center
- The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
They help Marylanders take a bite of a sweet treat, feeding your soul and a good cause.
You can satiate your sweet tooth online at mouthpartycaramel.com