Howard Cadmus grew up in Middletown, N.Y., raised by a single mother on welfare and then by his grandparents--so he learned at an early age the value of hard work. He got his first job at age 14, eventually putting himself through SUNY Albany, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science and criminal justice, and University at Buffalo School of Law, where he received his J.D. degree. Cadmus started his law career in Buffalo, working for various law firms before opening a solo practice in 2008.
“There were few opportunities for me to advance at the firms, so the idea of setting up my own practice appealed to me,” said Cadmus. “I knew I would have more control over my career, and be able to have a more hands-on approach with my clients and be more effective.” He set up an office on Main Street in Williamsville, specializing in real estate purchases, sales and refinances.
Motivated by a desire to ensure security for his family (Cadmus met his wife Tara, in 2006; they were married in 2008), Cadmus once again became an entrepreneur when he and Tara opened Oh Pour L’amour Du Chocolat (French for “Oh, for the love of chocolate!) in Snyder in 2010 and then purchased Sweet Jenny’s Ice Cream and Chocolates in 2011. Both locations serve handmade chocolate and homemade ice cream that, whenever possible, use locally sourced ingredients and no chemicals.
“Both Tara and I had experience making chocolate and ice cream,” said Cadmus. “It is a passion we share and, in fact, Tara studied the art of chocolate making in France and Belgium and worked at Sweet Jenny’s, so this seemed like a logical next step for us. And we saw it as a way to give back to our community.” And give back they do, receiving recognition for their generosity from such organizations as the SPCA, the Buffalo Zoo and Heritage Center, as well as the Town of Amherst.
In 2013, the hardworking and civic-minded Cadmus--who confesses to loving a good challenge--ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Amherst Town Board. Why would the workaholic turned chocoholic want to add more to his already-full plate? “I thought I could effect positive changes in the community, and provide a politically neutral, previously unheard voice for residents and provide services that were under-supported,” Cadmus said, adding that he likely would not run again, instead focusing on helping the community in other ways.
In 2014, the couple rented space in the historic Water Mill complex on Spring Street in the Village of Williamsville, moving Sweet Jenny’s back to near its original location. Cadmus also opened 1811 Comics (named for the year the mill was constructed) on the second floor. Why comic books?
“I loved comic books as a kid, and became a voracious reader because of them,” said Cadmus. “So I saw the comic book shop as a way to promote literacy, plus it gave more of a well-rounded experience for those visiting the mill and make kids care and get excited about the 207-year-old building.”
In 2006, the Cadmuses purchased the Water Mill complex from the Village of Williamsville as part of the town’s Picture Main Street initiative, with the goal to renovate and preserve the quaint, historic property. Today, in addition to the retail outlets, all of the chocolate and ice cream is produced at the mill; visitors can watch the sweet confections being created through a large plate-glass window. Cadmus set up his law office in the property’s Zent House, and a third structure on the site is still vacant, but plans are in the works to restore and utilize the building.
Tara Cadmus, who grew up in East Amherst and received her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University at Buffalo, her J.D. degree from Capital University, and her MBA in business from Canisius College, has reduced her involvement in the businesses since the birth of their son, Carter, in 2015, but still takes an active role.
“She’s my partner and my sounding board,” said Howard Cadmus. “She’s extremely business minded, talented, and sensible.”
Cadmus attributes the success of the couple’s businesses to several key factors, which he recommends to all would-be entrepreneurs. “You have to do your homework first,” he said. “It’s important to look at every single aspect of the business so you know what you’re getting into. You want to make sure the juice is worth the squeeze, so to speak.”
Cadmus also recommends working within a shoestring budget to keep expenses down. “You don’t want to borrow if you can avoid it, and you don’t want to get buried in debt.” He noted that he’s still using the furniture he purchased at Goodwill for his solo practice in his current office.
He advises against taking money out of the business as much as possible. “Keep reinvesting in the business, whether it’s new equipment, new products, or advertising,” he said. “It’ll be much easier to see the fruits of your labor if you follow a few simple rules.”
Cadmus admits that owning so many businesses leaves little room for leisure time, because he understands the importance of being physically present when you own a business. Fortunately, technology helps him stay on top of things, even when he’s not onsite. “I always have my cell phone, and the cameras allow me to actually see what’s going on, even if I’m at home.
“The best attitude to take when opening a business is that you are not doing it for the income so much as the outcome: to build security for your family, to create jobs and to serve a purpose, and help out your community,” he said. “With that, you will have success.”