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Old-Fashioned, Independent Candy Stores in Lebanon County, PA

Maren brings you rare or fun recipes and news of funky, out-of-the-way places to dine or buy treats. She is a teacher, mom, and foodie.

I photographed it, then I consumed and  savored it - every single bite!

I photographed it, then I consumed and savored it - every single bite!

Three Lebanon, PA Candy Sellers Worth Knowing

Candy stores—could anyone ever have a "bad time" in one? Lebanon has three vastly different places to buy delicious candy. One is an old-fashioned classic. It makes many of its candies and sells them in a wonderful, snug edifice right on Lebanon's main street. The next is truly a cottage industry operated from the home of one family for over half a century. The last is a gift-type store that distributes candies made by numerous companies in eastern Pennsylvania.

Van Winkles Homemade Opera Fudge In Lebanon, PA

Homemade truly means HOME-made for the Van Winkle family. They sell one product and it is made in their adjoining homes on a narrow city residential street: 310 and 312 Guilford Street, Lebanon, PA 17046. The confection which has brought them local fame is:

Opera Fudge

Although they have neither a store "front" nor a web page, word of mouth has proven highly successful for this local candy maker. One can telephone 717-273-1994 and either leave a message or speak with Mrs. Nancy Van Winkle, her husband, or their younger son. If someone is home, they will tell you if they have your desired quantity and tell you to come over to pick it up.

According to newspaper accounts, Nancy started making opera fudge in the 1960s to be able to earn money yet stay at home with her children. As of 2009, she is still preparing the candy (opera fudge is not a true fudge) by hand beating it—no electric mixers are used! Apparently, the popularity of Van Winkle opera fudge transcends generations because 50-plus years later, the business is still going strong.

The Wertz Candies storefront on the main street of Lebanon, PA.

The Wertz Candies storefront on the main street of Lebanon, PA.

Wertz Candies on the Main Street Of Lebanon

Two things immediately strike the first-time visitor to Wertz Candies: the charming, old-fashioned shop and the aromas! Because they make their own caramel corn from scratch in view of customers, one often breathes in the essence of roasting popcorn bathed in buttery brown sugar. Yummm.

Wertz Candies store has happy glass cases filled with candy which can be purchased as a single piece or in larger quantities. Some are from other sources, and some are made by them. If there is any doubt, however, customers can easily look into the back kitchen where serious candy-making occurs.

Some of Wertz's specialties are chocolate-coated bacon (I am not quite brave enough to sample this unique food which appeals to Pennsylvania Dutch folk) and their opera fudge. Family member Bill Wertz explained to me that his grandparents originally hailed from the Reading, PA, region but moved to the Nebraska Territories early in their marriage. When the Dust Bowl hit, they returned to Pennsylvania, settling in Lebanon. Customers of their newly opened candy store frequently requested opera fudge, so the couple researched this candy and eventually worked out their own special recipe.

To me, Wertz Candies is the best of all worlds. It is an independent business, not part of a national chain. It retains old-fashioned décor and old-fashioned methods of preparing wonderful foodstuffs. (In academic circles, the activities there could even be called living history or living archaeology.) The staff is friendly as all get out, and the candy is fantastic. Prices are in Lebanon County reasonable. What more could you want?

There are not many candy makers who create "Chocolate Coated Bacon."

There are not many candy makers who create "Chocolate Coated Bacon."

The classic candy store case full of treats.

The classic candy store case full of treats.

Smith's Candies

Smith's Candies gathers the products of many regional candy companies into one spot: its gift store. Conveniently situated on state Route 422 in Myerstown, Smith's Candies invites shoppers with its ample parking. Although the Smith family has never made candy, it is well-known as a candy seller. Confections from Asher's, Linette, Lerro, Palmer's, Repperts and more are available for purchase. Smith also prides itself on offering confections from around the world. In addition, small stuffed animal toys and trinkets, such as one would expect to see at a Hallmark store, are sprinkled among the treats.

The caption above the store door reads, "Thank God for all His Blessings."

The caption above the store door reads, "Thank God for all His Blessings."

A view of the front of Smith's Candies on Lincoln Avenue in Myerstown, PA.

A view of the front of Smith's Candies on Lincoln Avenue in Myerstown, PA.

Lebanon County retains a wonderful sense of simple, farm-style living. Many staple crops are grown here, and good food is highly appreciated. Not surprisingly, candy is part of the good eating experience valued in south-central Pennsylvania.

Websites

Wertz Candies - http://www.wertzcandies.com/ (A great website, by the way.)

© 2013 Maren Elizabeth Morgan