Growing up in a small tourist area — where the only thing open year-round was the post office — the return of the candy store each summer was a pretty big deal. I’d run barefoot through pricker bushes and over hot blacktop just to catch a glimpse at the old-fashioned counter filled with brightly colored rows of pure sugar — and pure heaven. Barely old enough to reach, I’d rap my change against the case and ask the clerk, “How much can I buy for this?” as I held out my hand full of copper coins.
While you may not get quite as much bang for your buck these days, there are still a few places in Western New York to get your sweet fix...and that magical penny candy store experience.
Kelly’s Country Store
3121 Grand Island Blvd., Grand Island
Walter and Grace Kelly were hawking penny candy at local festivals when they decided to sell their house in order to purchase a 20-by-20-foot store. More than 50 years later, the third-generation Kelly emporium has expanded in size and scope to sell unique gifts, gourmet foods, pet treats, homemade chocolate and fudge made on premises, and of course, lots and lots of penny candy.
What’s in stock? 75 by-the-piece jars that include old-fashioned peach stones, sour cherries, Mary Janes, French burnt peanuts, wax bottles, Mexican hats and malted milk balls
Claim to fame: Licorice Allsorts
Young kids – Swedish fish
Teens – Sour Patch Kids
Millennials – Gummies
Over 50 – Nonpareils, bridge mix
Owner’s favorite: Double-dipped peanuts
Seasonal: Easter and Christmas-themed gummies
Hard to acquire: Chocolate Babies
What makes the store different: Family-run for 60 years
While you’re there: Visit the one-room schoolhouse that stands on the property behind the store, complete with old desks, blackboards, photos and a heating stove.
676-694 E. Main St., East Aurora
The largest 5&10 variety store in the world, this shopping mecca sports four buildings on two levels and carries everything from toys and tin signs to kitchenware and Kit-Cat Klocks. With over 75,000 items in stock, they don’t skimp when it comes to their candy selection either.
What’s in stock? Over 90 by-the-piece jars, filled with favorites like Mexican Hats, red and black raspberries, Boston Baked Beans, Dad’s root beer barrels, jellybean nougats, caramel creams and 32 different kinds of stick candy
Claim to fame: Nine flavors of Crystal Beach suckers
Young kids – Candy blocks, chocolate rocks
Teens – Twizzlers (carry nine varieties)
Millennials – Mike and Ike, Lemonheads
Over 50 – Canada mints, fireballs, circus peanuts
Manager’s favorite: Coconut clusters or anything chocolate
Seasonal: Just Born black jelly beans and panoramic eggs at Easter; gold coins for Hanukkah and stockings at Christmas
Hard to acquire: Hammond’s Malted Milkshake bar
What makes the store different: Friendly and outgoing staff is known to kid around with customers. Just watch their commercials to see how much fun they seem to have working there.
While you’re there: Let your kids or grandchildren ride Sandy the mechanical horse and treat yourself to some fresh-popped popcorn — still just 10 cents a bag.
Ellicottville Country Store & Antiques
5364 Route 242 E., Ellicottville
Just three and a half miles from the village of Ellicottville, this 150-year-old general store offers jams and jellies, knickknacks, soaps, bulk foods, toys, jewelry, local maple syrup and honey, and an array of penny candy that includes some hard-to-find favorites.
What’s in stock? Black licorice, wax bottles, anise squares, orange slices, jawbreakers, fireballs, chocolate caramel Bullseyes, cinnamon bears and candy buttons
Claim to fame: People come out of their way for the old-fashioned black licorice wheels and wax lips (the latter of which are go-to props in group photos and selfies)
Young kids – Smarties
Teens – Pop Rocks, wax lips
Millennials – Gummies of any kind
Over 50 – Old-fashioned licorice wheels
Owner’s favorite: Dark chocolate peanut chews
Hard to acquire: Grape-flavored wax moustaches
Wish they could still get: Sen-Sen (the original breath “perfume” was particularly popular among older gentlemen, and is one of the most requested discontinued items across the board)
What makes the store different: Free piece of penny candy if you’re less than four feet tall and well behaved (no whiners!)
While you’re there: Check out the antique gallery and adjacent diner serving breakfast and lunch. Browse the store while you wait for your vittles, like slow-cooked hash, stuffed French toast and homemade soups.
Marilla Country Store
1673 Two Rod Road, Marilla
In continuous operation since 1851, there’s a lot more packed into this historic building than you’d think, like great gifts and seasonal goods, fun jewelry and accessories, Mission-style Amish furniture, and bulk foods and candies.
What’s in stock? Over 500 candy varieties, including throwbacks like candy necklaces, sanded cinnamon balls, satellite wafers, caramels, safety pops, clove balls and buttermints
Young kids – Rock candy, candy buttons
Teens – Sour gummy worms
Millennials – Swedish fish (and their cousin, grape Nordic fish)
Over 50 – Licorice, fruit slices, jumbo-sized jellybeans
Claim to fame: Canadian candy bars Coffee Crisp and Aero, and candy “sticks” (formerly the politically incorrect candy cigarettes)
Owner’s favorite: Cherry sours
Seasonal: Oh Ryan’s Irish Potatoes (coconut rolled in cinnamon) for St. Patrick’s Day; panoramic eggs for Easter; assorted candy corn in the fall; ribbon candy, peppermint pigs and sugar plums for Christmas
Hard to acquire: Licorice pipes (in stock at press time)
What makes the store different: Serving the community in the same building, on the same wooden floors for 167 years, the store has senior citizens who remember coming in as a kid and now bring their children and grandchildren.
While you’re there: Stop into the museum to find old store equipment and fixtures, antique merchandise, tools, medicines, clothing, cooking utensils, sewing notions, original advertisements and more.
Candy that’s just a click away
Diehard online shoppers don’t despair: A number of sites including Candycrate.com, Oldtimecandy.com and Candyfavorites.com let you stock up on retro faves like Flipsticks candy lipstick, Banana Splits, Lollies, Now & Later, Pixy Stix and Fizzies soda tablets. Or send a candygram with Sugarwish.com, where the giver selects the candy amount and the receiver can choose their own candies from among over 80 choices, then it ships right to their door.
Story topics: Food + Drink