Barb’s Brittles brightens Tallahassee

Barbara McGarrah has cultivated a loyal following at her shop in The Cottages at Lake Ella.
Shay Simon |  The Famuan

“This came about through the grace of God. I never thought I would ever be in business, especially not for something like peanut brittle,” Barbara McGarrah, a black female entrepreneur, said.

“It was one of those ventures that started out as a temporary venture but as I did it, it began to grow in a way that I never imagined. It was almost like the brittle was taking on its own destination and I had the opportunity to follow it and see how far it would go.”

McGarrah’s hobby of making brittle, a candy made from nuts and melted sugar, for her family while she was a student at FSU led to her father buying her 100 pounds of peanuts.

“The first thing I thought was, ‘That’s a person. What am I going to do with all of this?’” McGarrah said.  

She put it to use. One Christmas, instead of getting traditional gifts for everyone on her list she made peanut brittle. Needless to say, everyone loved it! Yet, she had 50 pounds of peanuts left. The leftovers became brittle she donated to the senior center in Tallahassee. As years went on and word spread, the senior center turned into craft shows around the city and, in October 2001, Barb’s Gourmet Brittles officially opened its doors.

“It was really the owner of the building that thought it would be a unique business,” McGarrah said.

“He said, ‘Wow, a candy store. Tallahassee doesn’t have an old-fashioned candy store.’ And that’s when it dawned on me – it doesn’t.”

Gibert Chandler, the deceased owner of The Cottages at Lake Ella where Barb’s Gourmet Brittles is located, thought Barb’s business would be an opportunity to bring something different to Tallahassee. He put McGarrah at the head of the waiting line for his property and gave her the keys to her own business.

“I didn’t even know it was a waiting list. That was another blessing,” she said.

Today, McGarrah makes more than 25 candy brittles. The gourmet shop has different flavors of ice cream, cookies and pralines and has attracted people from all over North Florida for over 17 years. Zanae Drummer has been a loyal customer since she discovered Barb’s in 2017. Drummer said, “They make their own flavors here and I find flavors here that I don’t find anywhere else.” And that’s what brings her back.  

Prior to becoming a business owner, McGarrah was a seamstress with a love and a college degree for fashion. But she let destiny take its course.

 “You can either choose to do what you want to do or you can choose to do what He has already destined for you to do. But His destiny is a lot bigger than your choices could ever be,” she said.

McGarrah put down her sewing machine and picked up a spatula.

 “It’s just like looking at a piece of raw fabric. I have the peanuts that I get to interpret in any way I choose,” she said.  

With her faith, her husband and her passion, one woman turned 100 pounds of peanuts into a trailblazing business.