by Adriane Dorr
Devon (Flesor) Nau knows the difference between caramels and clusters, barks and brittles. And she ought to. Following in the footsteps of her grandfather and parents, Nau— along with her sister, Ann—is a third-generation owner of Flesor’s Candy Kitchen in Tuscola, Ill. Started in 1901, closed in 1975 and re-opened in 2004, the store is a vibrant tourist attraction for travelers along Highway 57 in central Illinois and a beloved eatery for locals. Nau, an active member of the nearby LCMS church, is known for her wry sense of humor, obvious work ethic and the joy she takes in being a kid in a candy shop . . . for a living.
The following is an edited Lutheran Witness (LW) interview with Nau (DN).
LW: How did you come to be a candy store entrepreneur?
DN: I was born into the candy business and, with my sister Ann, returned to it just over six years ago. Our Greek immigrant grandfather, Gus Flesor, opened our family’s original store in Tuscola, Ill., in 1901, and he and various family members ran the business for decades.
In the late 70s, my mother and father closed the doors. The building and contents were auctioned off, and then the downtown building sat—sad, empty, deteriorating—all those years.
My sister and I, back together in central Illinois, bought “our” old building and spent 18 months completely gutting and renovating it. We also located all of the original antique fixtures, bought them back from the antique dealer who had been storing them and put them back where they belonged. We opened for business in the fall of 2004 and have been working non-stop since then.
LW: What was your occupation prior to opening Flesor’s?
DN: I taught for 16 years in the English Department at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill.
LW: How do you balance your vocation as wife and mother with running a unique and thriving business?
DN: Sometimes when I’m really, really tired— usually during the weeks before Christmas when I’m working outrageous hours at the store—I wonder if God is punishing me for all of the sins of my youth!
But then I realize that what makes it all possible is the blessings I have received. All three of my children (Nicholas, 20; Alexis, 11; and Paul, 9) are brilliant and funny and healthy and self-directed. My husband, who is also my best friend, steps up at home when I’m overworked, and I do the same for him when he is swamped at work. Somehow we balance everything—if you don’t count my desperate need for a haircut or the perpetual tower of laundry.
LW: What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
DN: My most rewarding moments at work occur when people thank me and my sister for re-opening our store. I also am thrilled every time someone tells me that our candy is amazing or that a particular chocolate ice cream soda is the best someone has ever had!
LW: What are you involved in at church?
DN: My home church is Immanuel Lutheran Church in Tuscola. I sing in our little choir. What I enjoy most about each church service is the sermon, and soon I will be encouraging our new pastor to make his sermons a little longer. That should surprise him!
LW: How has your Lutheran faith played a role in your career?
DN: It emerges in surprising ways. It helps me be patient and nice to difficult customers. It helps me to remember that no matter how emotionally or physically difficult my work days might seem, I am still blessed. I am blessed by my Baptism, by what Christ has done for me. I am blessed by everything that God has put in my life and allowed me to do.
Plus, the Lutheran church shuns idolatry and celebrates family. We run a modest family business, and I have a strongly unified family at home. My church and my business and my family flow together in the stream that is my life.
LW: Who has been your biggest influence?
DN: I cannot point to one person on the planet for so many have shaped me: my parents, my siblings, my teachers, my friends, my husband. So many authors have also affected me profoundly.
LW: What’s your favorite candy?
DN: Caramel. And I have personally made—over an open flame in a copper kettle—thousands of pounds of it.
> On the Web find flesor’s candy Kitchen on facebook.
> On the Web visit www.flesorscandy.com
About the Author: Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.