Preservation at its Finest: Exploring Shane Confectionery
Shane Confectionery, located in the Old City section of Philadelphia, is not only America’s oldest candy store, it’s also one of the most unique and captivating. Though it’s easy to miss, it’s a hidden gem that should appeal to both those with a sweet tooth craving delicious handmade treats and folks who appreciate history and preservation; the store is run with a dedication to authenticity that borders on astonishing and the two current owners have evidently taken great delight in cramming the shop with details that might be missed by casual observers just looking to buy a toffee.
Samuel Herring founded the store in 1863 as a retail front for the confectionery wholesale business he operated next door. Nuts, figs, chocolate liquor, and cocoanuts were among the items sold. In 1899, Herring sold the store to a businessman named Willian Wescott, who owned a small chocolate factory nearby. It was sold again in 1910 to Edward R. Shane, the man for whom it is still named. Shane redesigned the store with gleaming curved glass windows and beautiful cabinets, and most of the architectural features are still intact in the store today. The shop remained in the family’s hands for nearly a century, and over the decades, Shane’s descendants resisted the trend of automating candy-making. Everything was handmade.
In 2010 the business was bequeathed to brothers Eric and Ryan Berley. The Berleys both have a taste for the past: frequently pictured in clothing fashions recalling the early 1900s, the pair have also maintained the traditional candy-making methods to produce real chocolate from cocoa beans – a rarity in an age when many corporate chocolate companies are no longer legally allowed to refer to their products as “milk chocolate.” The Berleys believe in candy-making as an art form, and their passion is evident in the store displays. The candies are not only beautifully crafted – they are also accompanied by small cards explaining the origin and significance of the delicacy. It is, in essence, a functional museum. The friendly staff wear period-appropriate clothing and are happy to explain both the processes and differences between the candies, and many elements from defunct regional candymakers were purchased and incorporated into the store. One historical element of the candy-making process the Berleys avoid is labor exploitation – ingredients are purchased from small, local companies when possible or obtained through organic fair trade agreements if not. The Shane Confectionery website helpfully provides a detailed list of where they obtain ingredients, and vegan alternatives are offered where possible.
If you’ve read my entries on this site, you know I’m a big fan of small, unique businesses, and patronizing and promoting them is the best way to ensure that they remain in operation for generations to come. Shane Confectionery is a delight to visit, both for the delicacies they produce and the experience of seeing a candy store that has been faithfully maintained in its original condition for over a century. If you’re in Philadelphia, don’t miss it!
Matthew Christopher PA Philadelphia Jan 05, 2024 Back in Time Food
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Matthew Christopher Jan 05, 2024
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