Neighborhood Candy Stores Cater to People of All Ages
Dec 01, 2014 10:22AM ● Published by Hilary Daninhirsch
From fancy truffles and chocolate covered pretzels and buckeyes, to gummy bears, pixie sticks, circus peanuts, rock candy, and everything in between, there is something to satisfy every sweet tooth at local candy shops. And although there are distinct ‘candy holidays,’ like Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Halloween, candy, for many, is a daily treat.
Yetter’s in Millvale is one of the oldest candy shops in town, having been a Pittsburgh institution for 64 years. The store carries everything from boxed chocolates to nostalgic nickel and dime candy, as well as chunk chocolate. As far as busy seasons go, owner Ed Carr reported that Easter is number one, followed by Christmas and then Valentine’s Day. Daily bestsellers are chocolate covered pretzels and potato chips.
Carr’s in-laws opened the shop in 1950, and it is still in its original location. A flood in 2004 led to a year-long closure, and they almost decided not to reopen. “We thought of closing, but customers begged us not to close,” said Carr. “They were terrific; that’s what kept us going.”
Despite a deli and a popular ice cream shop within Yetter’s, “The candy is the reason we are here,” Carr said. “It’s a happy place.”
Remember wax lips, satellite wafers and Zagnut? Folks who long for the old-fashioned, retro candy of their youth can find true happiness at Baldinger’s Candy, which opened in 1933 and moved to their present location just south of Zelienople in 2008. The old-time atmosphere draws in customers from all over the area, and even people from as far away as Australia.
According to Manager Jean Zajacs, “Baldinger’s carries everything from the 1920s to what came out yesterday.” Customers can scoop their own bulk candy or find a bargain at the 10-cent table. At Easter and Christmas, they carry many holiday molds, and while they do not make their own chocolate, the store carries many Pennsylvania-made brands, including Holman and Daffins.
“Our biggest sellers are triple-dipped malted milk balls and sea salt caramels, which go out the door like crazy,” said Zajacs. Besides the candy, customers are also drawn to the more than 300 kinds of cookie cutters for sale, as well as hard-to-find LorAnn flavoring oils, used for making hard candy.
A few miles north of Baldinger’s is the home of one of the newer candy shops in town. Wendereusz, based in Evans City, opened 2-½ years ago. Owner Tricia Wendereusz’s in-laws used to make homemade chocolates out of their house for a number of years, and when they retired, she and her husband wanted to turn her in-laws’ hobby into a business. In addition to homemade and imported chocolates, they also carry a large selection of bulk candy, including jelly beans and novelty items.
Wendereusz said that while Christmas and Easter are the busiest times of year, year-round bestsellers include homemade turtles, nut clusters and chocolate covered bacon; they also have seasonal specialties, including gourmet apples in the fall, and lollipops decorated with Christmas colors.
“We’re a small, friendly family business. We try to greet all of our customers as they come in the door,” she said. Offering milk and dark chocolate samples to ‘try before you buy’ is perhaps another reason why they have already built such a loyal customer base.
Anyone who walks into Grandpa Joe’s in downtown Beaver can relate to the phrase ‘like a kid in a candy store.’ Grandpa Joe’s has been open in the Strip for a couple of years; they opened their second store in Beaver this past summer.
Grandpa Joe’s makes their own gourmet fudge and gourmet marshmallows, as well as their own chocolates, including such unique offerings as chocolate Twinkies, butter toffee and bark, buckeyes and s’more on a stick. And then there’s chocolate covered insects—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“If it exists, we have it. We get really annoyed if you stump us,” laughed co-owner and manager, Adam Cannon, who estimates that they sell about 7,000 varieties of candy, including old-time candy, imports and 125 glass bottle sodas.
But perhaps the pièce de résistance is a smartly priced candy buffet with more than 125 candy options. A customer is given a box and can fill it to the brim with anything from the candy buffet for only $5. “It’s hysterical to watch kids fill their boxes; it’s like they’re playing Tetris,” said Cannon.
The 8-year-old candy store, Village Candy in Sewickley, appeals to both young and old. “The things that stick with you the most are the things you grew up with,” said owner Doug Alpern, explaining why many of his customers are attracted to the wide selection of nostalgic candy.
But you don’t have to be living in the past to enjoy all of what Village Candy has to offer. “We do get a lot of kids; if you don’t like kids, this is not the business for you,” said Alpern.
Village Candy’s most popular items include salted caramels dipped in chocolate and artisan bars. Swedish fish and other gummy candy appeals to adults and children alike, and the store also sells chocolates from other countries, such as Belgium, Switzerland and Mexico, as well as carries 150 individual brands of soda from different places around the country. “We have a good variety of just about everything,” said Alpern.
No matter which of these stores you visit, you’re sure to have a sweet time shopping.