Here’s a riddle for you: What does Carney have in common with with Lady Antebellum, Drake, Fergie, Amir "?uestlove" Thompson, Diana Ross, Ringo Starr and Jack Black?
The answer? Mouth Party Caramels.
“They found us supposedly through a blog,” Purcell said.
The “they” Purcell is talking about is Distinctive Assets, a company that produces gift bags for many major award shows including the Grammys, the Latin Grammys and the Country Music Awards.
“It was nice to have them reach out to us, we opened the shop up and 36 hours later we overnighted two huge jars and gift boxes out to LA,” Purcell said.
How Purcell, formerly a full-time landscape architect, became a potential confectioner to the stars is a great story that starts with her family.
Mouth Party caramels are all based on a recipe passed down through Purcell’s stepmother’s family.
"The caramels themselves come from my stepmother, her family—they've been making them for four generations, starting with her great-grandmother," Purcell said.
When Purcell's stepmother was diagnosed with lymphoma five years ago, she and Purcell began talking again about the caramels.
"I told her they're so good that maybe we could sell them," Purcell said. "I had a career but I found it difficult to make it work with children, so I told her I'd give it a shot. Going into that Christmas, I made caramels and gave them to everyone I knew—then we started up in January 2007."
For about six months, Purcell made the caramels out of her Towson home. But as the business grew, she outgrew her home kitchen and began renting commerical kitchen space at Bryn Mawr school in Baltimore.
"It got to the point where I could no longer keep the stock [at Bryn Mawr], I was carting everything home to package it. I needed to get a space of my own," Purcell said.
That's when she found the space at 8923-A Old Harford Road in Carney through Craigslist. She's been there since September 2010, and business has been booming.
"We are in a bunch of grocery stores, Graul's and Eddie’s markets. Wegmans in Hunt Valley, —we're trying for the . All in all we have 85 different retail locations," Purcell said.
Right in Carney you can find Mouth Party Caramels at Bagel Bistro, and nearby you can get them at Red Canoe Bookstore & Cafe in Lauraville. A Mouth Party caramel comes with every check at the newly-opened.
"We’re trying to beef up our online presence but we do love the fact that people are able to stop in," Purcell said.
Business hours at the Carney shop, which Purcell describes as a manufacturing location, aren't firm but customers are welcome to call and stop by to pick up caramels—they're usually in the store from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Mouth Party offers flavors that run the gamut from original—the vanilla caramel that Purcell's stepmother was famous for—to "OMG," an original caramel dipped in milk chocolate and topped with sea salt. There's also cappuccino made with local Zeke's espresso roast coffee.
"We're test driving a raspberry dark-chocolate caramel right now that will probably be our Valentine's Day flavor next year," Purcell said.
Purcell works as she talks — cutting caramels with a huge rolling knife. At a large table in the front of the store, managers Kate and Ashley Hoppa sit, individually wrapping each piece of candy in plastic.
The sisters, Overlea-area natives, said that during the holiday season they can wrap more than 2,000 pieces during a shift. Despite the seemingly tedious task, the girls are thrilled with their work.
"We were incredibly lucky. Why would someone leave a job like this?" Kate Hoppa said.
With sales growing, an opportunity to reach out to the Hollywood elite, and work that results in delicious treats: why indeed?