Ribbon candy at Christmas. Peeps in an Easter basket. Chocolate chip cookies baking in grandma’s oven.
Everyone remembers the sweets from their childhood. Among my favorites were the sugary caricatures of the Fab Four on a memorable birthday cake, and the cherry cokes at Delamarter’s soda shop in Waterloo. Stacey and Becky Ingerick were missing the treats they had enjoyed as kids – ones that had long since disappeared from store shelves. It became their inspiration for opening The Keuka Candy Emporium in Penn Yan last March.
“Who doesn’t love candy?” Becky said, as she reintroduced to me to some of old-fashioned favorites offered in the emporium.
“I’ve always had a sweet tooth,” admits her husband Stacey. “The store was something that just happened. I knew it would be successful.”
Located at 17 Main Street, across from Pinckney’s Hardware, The Keuka Candy Emporium, at first glance, is nearly invisible. A small sandwich board outside advertises the 24 flavors of Hershey’s ice cream served inside. When I visited in February, the emporium’s decorative window displayed red hearts and a snowman to greet customers coming in to get warm from the winter’s chill. Those displays, explains Betsy, would soon give way to the Easter-themed window she was busy planning for spring.
Just a little more than a year ago, the emporium’s windows were completely dressed in black; cloaked in secrecy. No one knew exactly what the Ingericks were up to.
Today, visitors are amazed at what they find among the more than 400 varieties of candies. From the moment you step in, you’re greeted with a cornucopia of delights from the past as well as the present. Here is just a short list of what you’ll find.
Chocolate dipped pretzels
Bonom Turkish Taffy
The lollipop trees and candy bouquets decorating the counters are tantalizing eye-poppers. Etched into the sweet, colorful icing of a chocolate-covered Rice Krispy Treat pop may be a map of Keuka Lake, a Muppet face or a Sponge Bob Square Pants or two, depending on the day. Cotton candy is made fresh daily, and the sweet smell of caramel corn warming in a corner is alluring. Served with Pepsi, ginger beer or sarsaparilla – in glass bottles only, points out Becky – they are nostalgic treats for even the most discerning of customers.
The “oohs,” and “oh, mys!” they hear as customers step inside for the very first time make the work of hunting down everyone’s favorite candies worth it, says Becky. The faces of old and young alike light up when long-forgotten favorites warmly greet them again.
The children think they’ve stepped into Fantasyland. “Is this heaven?” one asked her.
A blast from the past
Every effort has been made to replicate the look of a vintage candy store. In the center, wooden barrels overflow with assorted fruit-flavored hard candies, Mary Janes and root beer barrels. Some of the shelving and one of the display cases is made of wood from a 120-year-old barn near Edwards Road in Waterloo. Other fixtures are fashioned from old wooden crates.
In addition to the vintage scales the Ingericks found on ebay, there’s also an antique cotton-candy machine and an old-fashioned, three-spindled milkshake maker.
The building has been a part of Penn Yan’s history for many years, first as a general store. It became an appliance/fix-it shop and then a tobacco emporium before candy moved in. The original cigar display case is used today to house several varieties of fresh homemade fudge, special-delivered from a company in Tennessee. Customer favorites include chocolate-covered cherry, pumpkin pie and salted caramel. Peanut butter is the hands-down bestseller.
Since the emporium opened last March, the response has been off the wall, Becky says. Folks returning to the lake for the summer make it their first stop – even before going to their cottages, she reports. Local patrons are no less enthusiastic. Alex, a frequent customer, had this to say about the cup of Wicked Joe coffee he buys there every day: “It’s awesome.” Becky’s not surprised; it was chosen in a blind taste test of several coffee brands they lined up along the counters. When they got to Wicked Joe’s all-natural brew, the decision was unanimous.
New ideas every day
The business continues to grow, to the surprise and delight of the Ingericks, as they scout around for requested favorites to add to the myriad variety of hard-to-find candies they sell.
People from across the country – and around the world – are able to shop the store to their heart’s delight, both physically and virtually, says Becky, thanks to keukacandyemporium.com. Seasonal candy baskets
have found their way to places as far away as Texas and Kodiak, Alaska; and visitors have come from as far away
as South Africa.
Couples planning weddings, and family members looking for a gift for a special loved one enjoy the candy baskets and bouquets. A smash hit are the emporium’s made-to-order wedding buffets. The specially themed “Candy of the Month Club,” an idea suggested by a customer, is “the gift that keeps on giving,” says Becky.
A sister city has approached the Ingericks with the hope of having them open up a candy store there. Stacey and Becky are seriously considering it.
After a year in business, their biggest challenge is finding some of the old-fashioned candy that customers request. Chewing gum brands – some of which are not manufactured regularly – are particularly difficult to find. Another requested candy, called “chicken bones,” dates back to 1927. A few packages of the crispy confection stuffed with peanut butter were finally found in Chicago, but old-fashioned whistlepops remain elusive.
Today, they are happy to have most of everyone’s favorites on hand, and they look forward to searching for more hard-to-find treats, sweet memories of bygone days loved by their customers.
story by Frances Emerson, photos by Jennifer Srmack