Local Law Enforcement Officer Has a Taste for the Caramel Biz
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Jason Graves
Cicero Caramel Company arose out of Owner Brian Niec’s casual interest in finding a creative outlet to enjoy when not serving the community as a 17-year veteran law enforcement officer.
“It was almost a complete fluke,” Niec says. “In 2018 my son had just been born, and I was trying to think of something to do that was not law enforcement related whatsoever. I’ve always been kind of a kitchen person and a baker, and I come from a family of bakers.”
Niec began tinkering with caramel recipes and presented a batch to the owners of Cicero Coffee Company, with whom he is friends.
“They told me that I should sell it at their coffee shop,” Niec recalls. “I was surprised but they were ready to do it. After that, on a whim, I made the Cicero Caramel Company Facebook page thinking it would be for family and friends.”
After returning to his job when his baby leave ended, Niec made a few more caramel batches made a post about it on his Facebook page, which was quickly shared more than 280 times. He was pleasantly surprised, and began to realize that people outside of his own immediate circle would be interested in his product.
“Fox 59 called then, and Lindy Thackston did a story on me,” Niec says. “It just organically blew up into a business, when I had no intention of making it a business whatsoever.”
Niec describes the process of making his caramel flavors as a science rather than an art.
“Once I figured out a recipe that I could make my own, I started thinking about how I could challenge it and make it different,” he says. “You can go anywhere and get caramel, but you can’t go anywhere and get Chocolate Flaked Java caramel or a German Chocolate caramel. That’s kind of how I tried to differentiate myself. The biggest thing that makes us different is the artisan flavors.”
Niec also built his concept around offering large quantities, for those interested in taking unique caramel flavors to a party or family gathering. He offers approximately 15 to 20 flavors through the official Cicero Caramel Company website at any given time, including Triple Chocolate Pretzel, Milk Chocolate Peanut Caramel, Pecan, Caramel Punkin Spice Roll and more. Orders are available to be shipped, or for delivery in most parts of Hamilton County.
“I can arrange a pickup spot with you if you email me as well,” Niec adds. “We try to do things people want and will be excited about. People like Butterfinger candy bars, so we’re going to be doing a caramel with Butterfinger, and we do things like a caramel popcorn in July as a special.”
Niec is able to make vegan versions of any flavor on his menu.
“The Delectable, which is the milk chocolate pretzel, is probably my most well-known flavor,” he adds. “The Chocolate Flaked Java is up there too as one of my most popular, and even people who don’t like coffee go for that one. I also do a Double Decker, which is basically like an inside-out Twix bar.”
As far as Niec’s own favorite flavor, he gravitates toward his caramel popcorn and the Chocolate Pretzel flavor – but he’s quick to add that he usually stays away from enjoying his own creations too much.
“I honestly don’t eat a lot of it, because that opens up Pandora’s box,” he says with a laugh.
Niec also plans to add an M&M flavor, and make his Butterfinger caramel a more regular offering.
“I put the Butterfinger caramel in Christmas tins this year and everybody really liked it,” he says. “It’s always the plan to come up with ways to challenge myself and figure out what the clients want. Usually somebody will say, ‘Can you do this flavor, because I’d love to try it and would buy it,’ and that’s what I try to do next.”
Originally from Columbia City, Indiana, Niec had a desire to work in law enforcement almost as long as he can remember.
“In second grade when you fill out those questionnaire forms with your dog’s name and what you want to be when you get older, I put a police officer and just never changed my mind,” says Niec, who officially became a lieutenant with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office in December.
After obtaining his bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University, Niec moved to Hamilton County and has grown to appreciate the area ever since.
“Being able to serve the community here in law enforcement, and now doing the caramel business here and offering something to the community in that way, is great – I enjoy it here,” he says.
For more information on Cicero Caramel Company and to place an order, visit cicerocaramelco.com.