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The company was sold eventually and came to be owned by a couple Manning knew socially, Tracey and James Brooks West III of Raleigh. Making as many as 20 flavors of buds, Butterfields developed a nationwide reputation and clientele, Manning said. Then, the couple divorced and James Brooks West took over the business. By 2010, he defaulted on $450,000 worth of loans to BB&T; and the bank sold the foreclosed business the next year, according to court records.

That’s when Manning took over. She admits she surprised even herself when she bought the company, based about 45 miles northeast of Raleigh. She comes from a family of entrepreneurial risk-takers. At 21, her grandfather made newspaper headlines in 1931 for a daring 3,500-mile flight from Los Angeles to San Jose, Costa Rica. He went on to start several South American airlines, and her father started the first domestic airline in Honduras.

In the late 1990s, Manning’s father encouraged her to go into business importing art from Central America. She incorporated and scouted locations for a retail store, but the venture took a back seat to child-rearing and never got off the ground. Now, her children are grown and she has embraced her new undertaking.

“I really didn’t know I had it in me, but I have an extremely hard work ethic,” she said. “I always wanted to have my own business.”

Manning has a lot of help from family, including her ex-husband, Charles “Rocky” Manning, with whom she enjoys a cordial relationship. Rocky Manning, an engineer, and their older son, Joseph, a graduate engineering student, refurbished the battle-worn candy-making equipment and fix it when it breaks down, as it often does. The equipment is so old that the manufacturers no longer make or sell parts for it, which means they have to find other solutions, like having replacement parts fabricated by metal shops.

Manning’s younger son, Harry, 23, also works at Butterfields, doing everything from making candy to packaging it and selling it at holiday shows. He has watched his mother grow into a successful business owner.

“I don’t think she knew what she was getting into when she started,” he said. “But she’s learning and persevering.”

About her family, Dena Manning said, “There’s no way I could have been able to do this without them.”

Since 2012, Manning’s seven-employee company has sold $200,000 worth of candy. She is making progress with many local and national retailers. Chapel Hill’s Southern Season includes the Peach and Lemon buds in several of its gift baskets. The Umstead Hotel in Cary does the same in guests’ gift baskets And Manning is in discussions to get on the shelves at more Fresh Market grocery stores.

Beyond the success of her business, Manning is motivated by a sense of duty to restore a part of the state’s culinary fabric.

In an email, she wrote: “I resurrected this company because if I had not done this, part of this state’s heritage was going to die. The peach buds would have just vanished.”


Information from: The News & Observer,