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Something for everyone’s taste

Posted on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Linda Ward loves her job. She is creator, owner, operator and candy cook at Nina’s: Taste of Tennessee, a treasure on the Lynchburg Square.

Nina’s is Lynchburg’s “chocolate factory” and more. Ward sells about 30 different candies, 18 of which are her own creations made daily in the shop’s kitchen. Second only to candy containing “the local product,” peanut butter fudge is a customer favorite.

If you can pull yourself beyond the candy counter, you will find a wide variety of collectibles and gifts, artfully displayed. Ward prides herself on carrying about 80 percent items made in America and as much locally made as possible.

One of the most popular is the Jim Shore collection. This talented artist creates decorative items such as birds, Santas, angels and ornaments. He incorporates a quilt pattern on every piece.

Nina’s carries hammered metal ornaments, wax pottery that make your home fragrant without ever lighting a match and a variety of desk art, wine toppers and ornaments — at least three of which honor Lynchburg.

Several items, such as quality baking pans and wooden bowls and cutting boards, would make appreciated bridal gifts. The Bridal Registry is a convenient service. Brides-to-be are encouraged to come in and make selections that will be helpful to their family and friends in shopping for them. Nina’s also offers custom baskets, gift-wrapping and shipping.

Ward learned to cook as a young girl at home in Nashville, often having biscuits made when her mother got home from work. She graduated from Glencliff High School, where she met Johnny Ward at a football game her senior year.

They were married after her graduation, 43 years ago. John had joined the Air Force and they were stationed at Colorado Springs and Florida. When John was sent to Korea, Linda moved back with family in Tennessee, where their first child, Christy, was born and later their son, J.T.

Upon John’s discharge, the Wards moved to Smyrna. As the children got older, Linda began to work part-time, always drawn to her love of cooking sweets. She worked in a bakery, making cake frosting, then in a grocery store delicatessen, where she was trained to decorate birthday cakes.

John was an electrician whose work involved a lot of travel, so the Wards chose to move to the Lois Community of Moore County to be close to family. They have lived there for 30 years and are long-time members of Charity Baptist Church. Both children are Moore County graduates.

Linda began working at the popular Pepper Patch on the Lynchburg Square in 1988. She worked there 15 years and was the Retail Manager when the owner, Dot Smith, decided to retire. Dot encouraged Linda to open her own store, which she did in 2006.

Nina’s has been a family affair from its conception. Linda had planned that her granddaughter, Amber Milsaps, would call her “Nana.” When Amber, and later her brother Zachery, changed the name to “Nina,” it stuck and became the name Linda chose for the shop.

John retired from AEDC a year ago and since then has become Linda’s No. 1 assistant, becoming particularly efficient in stirring the fudge. Their daughter, Christy Milsaps, who works at Moore County High School, helps out during busy times, along with two part-time employees. Their son, J.T., is the General Manager of Puckett’s Boat House in Franklin.

Describing herself as a “people person,” Linda explains that tourism is an important part of her business, but is quick to add that Nina’s could not survive without loyal local customers. As active members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Wards are pleased with the way Lynchburg businesses support each other.

  It’s obvious that Linda enjoys her work, from cooking candy to going to the wholesale market in Atlanta, where she and John make product decisions.

Linda’s greatest satisfaction is pride of ownership in her shop and the results are beautiful. Right now, Nina’s is an eye-catching array of hearts, candy and gifts that would please any Valentine. To quote a frequently heard customer comment: “It’s a neat little store. It has neat things.

I would add, “It has neat owners.”


Award-winning writer June Pugh is a contributor to the Moore County News. Her ‘More About Moore’ column appears every other week. She can be reached at <>.