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andy at Country Stores
Brian Bode, a manager at Jefferson General Store. Sour candy remains popular with children, and another current big seller is bacon-flavored salt water taffy.
Retailers who sell chocolates and candies know that sweets can act as magnets for customers. Store owners and managers use creative displays to attract customers to the candy, which encourages them to stay in the store and discover other merchandise. The Country Kettle in East Stroudsburg, Pa., has welcomed Pocono Mountain tourists and residents for more than 28 years. Owners Pam and Louis Schrenko offer merchandise that ranges from candles, jewelry, collectibles and gardening gifts to homemade jams, jellies, sauces, fudge and candy. While Country Kettle has expanded through the years to now include 14,000 square feet of retail space, the multi-room and multi-floor gift store began as a small converted home.

“We started so small,” explained Pam Schrenko. “But as more customers came in we would ask them what they wanted to see in the store, and we listened. And that is why we are now 14,000 square feet so we can have all the stuff people asked for.” While gift merchandise occupies the front rooms of the store, the back room houses the homemade jams, jellies, sauces, food and 250 barrels of candy plus a separate case for the store’s fudge. The barrels are set in the center of the room within easy reach of customers and in easy sight of employees.

“Any time there is food involved, you want it front and center and in view of employees so they can tend to it often and easily,” Pam Schrenko noted. “The customers also like it visible. We are self-serve here for the candy so they can walk around the barrels and choose their favorites.”

Cake pops are available at Gourmetibles and the Chocolate Studio. “Some customers say they can smell us a mile away. Candy has amazing power,” the manager said.

All candy in the Country Kettle is the same price per pound, which makes it convenient for customers to make their choices. They fill plastic bags and then bring the candy to the register where it is weighed. The store also has scales around the store, so customers have an idea of how much they have selected. The most popular candies at Country Kettle are the gummy candies.

“Anything gummy sells. We have everything from gummy bears to gummy soldiers and they all go quickly,” Schrenko said. “Even though it goes fast, we are vigilant with all the food when it comes to freshness and cleanliness,” Schrenko added. “We are constantly filling barrels and wiping them down. If we see a certain candy has not sold, we take it away and we will discontinue it. You cannot have candy hanging around. It has to be fresh.”

Country Kettle is open all year round and each season brings different customers. “We rarely have down time,” Schrenko said. “Summer is mainly families on vacation; fall brings bus groups who come for the foliage plus a lot of senior citizen trips; At Christmas we see holiday shoppers and in the winter we see skiers who come to the store to stock up on nut mixes and candy to snack on while they ski.” The Country Kettle candies are also popular with private parties such as wedding receptions, baby showers and birthdays.

Gourmetibles and the Chocolate Studio offer classes for budding candy makers.

“We get a lot of customers who ask us to help them coordinate candy according to color schemes and themes,” Schrenko said. “We help them fill their candy jars or provide jars. We do everything from baby showers to birthdays for all ages and our customers can pick which candies they think their guests would like best. Candy is amazing. Rarely is it left over.”

At the Jefferson General Store in Jefferson, Texas, local residents and tourists visit the 5,000-square-foot store in search of everything from homemade jams and jellies to toys, T-shirts and of course, the store’s famous homemade pralines.

Customer Blaine Humphrey at Jefferson General Store. Candy is a big draw for the shop’s clientele.

“We are located about halfway between Houston and Dallas, in an area of bed and breakfasts and we are near two big lakes, so we not only get local traffic but visitors to the area as well,” explained Anna Bode, who owns the store with her husband Cliff. “People stop in for a lot of things but when they see our candy, they stay.” Jefferson General Store also boasts an old-fashioned soda fountain that cements the store’s sweet appeal. The Bodes make their own chocolates and their pralines are the top seller. They also carry nostalgic candy including cherry sours, candy cigarettes and banana split chews.

“I tease my dentist that he owes me with all the candy we sell,” Bode said. “Right now, one of our biggest sellers is bacon flavored salt water taffy. Bacon is so popular now; it flies out the store. Another flavor that never goes away is sour. The kids love sour, the more sour the candy is the better.”

A display in Gourmetibles, a candy, gourmet and gift shop in Beacon, N.Y. The store is experiencing an increase in traffic since the opening of a contemporary art museum in the town.

The candy that is sold in bulk in the store is displayed in glass jars, and the employees wait on customers for their order. Bode keeps the wrapped candy in baskets and customers help themselves.

“We try to make buying candy as convenient and entertaining as possible,” Bode said. “We also carry regular wrapped candy bars that we keep on candy racks by the registers. Our signature pralines come in a box with our store’s sticker on it.”

While Bode realizes that the candy does sell itself, she likes to create a fun atmosphere and makes candy shopping an experience. The store has piped in music that reflects the old-fashioned atmosphere plus nostalgic signage that directs customers to the candy of their choice.

“The candy moves all the time. Freshness is never a worry here. We never think too much about something hitting their shelf life. It doesn’t hang around that long.”

Abbie Clark, (left), with Raven Miller, soda fountain jerks, photographed with a candy display at the Jefferson General Store. The shop’s old-fashioned soda fountain takes customers back to a sweet past.

Located in Littleton, N.H., Chutter’s is the record holder for the longest candy counter in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The counter contains 112 feet of gleaming glass jars filled with any kind of candy a customer might want. “We have quite the variety,” noted Store Manager Nancy Carbonneau. “I would say our best sellers are the red Swedish fish. So many customers just love them.”

The candy is self serve. Customers pick out their selection and weigh them and the candy is priced on a per pound basis except for the penny candy. The store, which makes its own fudge, also has a separate chocolate counter and case.

“Chocolate has its own identity. If you are a chocolate person, you make a beeline to that case,” Carbonneau said. “Everything in the store is fresh. We never have to worry about any candy hanging around too long. Because we are a destination shop, there are days where we refill the jars three or four times per day.”

Located in the heart of the Amish country in Lancaster, Pa., Strasburg Country Store & Creamery offers customers a variety of merchandise from toys to kitchen gadgets, to books about the Amish to homemade ice cream to candy.

Candy barrels at the Country Kettle, an East Stroudsburg, Pa., shop that has served Pocono Mountain tourists for more than 28 years. All candy is the same price per pound for shopping and checkout ease.

“We obviously get both tourists and local residents here,” said General Manager Robin Stermer. “People come from all over for our homemade candies and our homemade fudge, which we make on a marble slab in front of the customers. We also make our own caramel corn, milk and dark chocolate pretzel candy and peanut brittle. We carry sugarless candy too.”

Also popular with customers are the nostalgic candies such as Turkish taffy, wax lips plus Clove and Teaberry gums.

The store is meant to be an experience in itself. You can see how our candy makers make the fudge and the entire store is a step back in time. The atmosphere fits perfectly with where we are located.“

With so much experience making candy, Stermer knows how to ensure freshness. Depending upon the season, she will adjust recipes and the number of batches of candy that are made each day.

”I want to say we have off seasons, but that is not true. There are certain times of year when people are lining up for certain candies and other times where we know we should decrease our output. Freshness is extremely important. Our customers expect us to be the best and quite honestly, so do we.“

Regina Furphy, owner, and sister and Manager Anne St. George of Gourmetibles and its next-door Chocolate Studio. The business carries candy, chocolate, fudge, biscotti plus glass bottle cheese boards, hand-painted glassware, jewelry, aprons and other gift items.

Since the arrival of Dia Art Foundation, a contemporary Art Museum, the town of Beacon, N.Y., has experienced a resurgence in traffic and growth. Gourmetibles, a candy, gourmet and gift shop and its next door sister shop, the Chocolate Studio, are enjoying the new found traffic that comes from local residents as well as tourists from New York City who head up the Thruway for a country escape. Owned by Regina Furphy and managed by her sister Anne St. George, Gourmetibles carries candy, chocolate, fudge, biscotti plus glass bottle cheese boards, hand-painted glassware, jewelry, aprons and other gift items.

”Some customers say they can smell us a mile away,“ said Anne St. George. “Candy has amazing power.”

Another draw to the candy has been the addition of the Chocolate Studio, which holds candy making classes. Birthday parties have become extremely popular and they always bring more customers into the store.

“We make candy all the time and part of our popularity is that customers appreciate the freshness,” St. George said. “We just gauge how much to make depending on the seasons or the popularity of the candy.”

A Gourmetibles gift tray of the “candy that thinks it’s a cookie” treats. “We make candy all the time and part of our popularity is that customers appreciate the freshness,” the manager said.

Most popular for customers now is the store’s chocolate covered bacon. Another top seller and what the store first became known for is their “candy that thinks it’s a cookie” that comes in a variety of flavors including Almond Avalanche, Beyond Butterscotch, Peanut Butter Pretzel, More than S’MORES, Naked in the Dark and Peace O’Pecan.

“The names of the candy flavors draw customers in and of course, we give out samples. Nothing sells candy and keeps it flying off the shelves like samples.”

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