Treat yourself to sweets galore at New England’s largest, oldest, and most innovative candy wonderlands.
By Kim Knox Beckius
Jul 22 2021
Goldenrod Kisses | Best Candy Stores in New EnglandPhoto Credit : Aimee Tucker
Want to feel like a kid in a candy store? There’s an easy way to experience that giddy rush of being surrounded by temptation: Go to a candy store! While that may sound obvious, these sweet spots are nothing like the last place where you bought a pack of mints or a chocolate bar. New England’s biggest and best candy stores whisk grown-ups back to a time when spare change clutched in a sweaty little palm could buy happiness.
If it’s sugary, it’s probably in stock at Chutters. This general store turned candy emporium has been a Main Street fixture in this mountain town since the late 1800s. Expect to feel overwhelmed the first time you walk the length of the nearly 112-foot triple-row candy counter, which has owned the Guinness “world’s longest” record since 2000. Old-fashioned candies you may have thought were extinct and the latest sweet sensations fill 600-some tantalizing jars.
Create your own custom mix for a per-pound price, or choose from a dozen penny candy selections still sold for a single cent. Homemade chocolates and fudge will entice you, too. Although smaller than the original store, Chutters also has a Lincoln, New Hampshire, location and a seasonal presence in a slope-top shack at the Bretton Woods ski area.
You don’t need a golden ticket to visit New England’s most enchanting candy factory. Saltwater taffy has been made on-site at the Goldenrod using the same recipe since 1896 — even before the first trains brought vacationers to Short Sands Beach. Workhorse machines installed in the ’40s and ’50s still crank out hundreds of pounds of Goldenrod Kisses each day from mid-May through Columbus Day. Watch through storefront windows as clouds of taffy — blueberry, molasses, peanut butter, or maybe the limited-edition flavor of the week — are pulled and fluffed before moving on to the clickety-clacking cutting and wrapping machine. Two-cent penny candy, molasses sponge hard candies, homemade ice cream, and an antique soda fountain add to the back-in-time allure. Take home your own custom assortment of taffy, and unwrap a day at the shore long after it’s too chilly to swim in Maine.
If you ate one goody per day, it would take more than three and a half years to sample every item displayed at Vermont’s largest candy store. Of course, you might want to skip over the shockingly large selection of chocolate-covered worms and bugs. Owner Blanca Jenne admits, “People tend to buy those for someone else.” However, Zombie Poop — one of Jenne’s own chocolate creations — is a must during Halloween season, when spiderweb cotton candy and gummy body parts fly off shelves. From local treats like Lake Champlain Chocolates bars and Maine-made maple malt balls to row after row of bulk candy in jars, if you can’t find just the right thing to satisfy your cravings here, you’ll never be satisfied. Jenne’s exotic birds have a playroom on-site, so be prepared to converse with Quincy, a chatty African grey parrot. He knows 100-plus phrases, but so far, “Buy more candy” is not one.
Eye-poppingly bright and whimsical, the seasonally changing décor inside this store will make you feel like a wide-eyed kindergartner. Artist Hilary Davis admits she was “flailing” when she moved home to Maine, and it was the idea of her business-minded mom, Kim, to launch a joint venture. Since 2012, they’ve filled Scrummy Afters with an array of more than 800 delights, including 340 sparkling glass jars filled with every colorful candy imaginable (even old-time Squirrel Nut Zippers and Bit-O-Honeys). Driven to provide a selection limited only by imagination, the two went to chocolate boot camp. Now, in their on-site “libratory,” they’re creating edible glass bubbles, hand-painted lobster pops, and shiny, scaly, Game of Thrones–inspired one-pound chocolate dragon eggs you have to see to believe.
Will you buy melt-in-your-mouth Salem Gibraltars, made with Mary Spencer’s original 1806 recipe? Or unicorn fudge, one of the latest inventions from America’s oldest candy company? If you happen to meet the bonneted actress who plays Spencer on busy October and holiday-season weekends, she’ll likely steer you toward the former, which sweetened life at sea for many a sailor, or another enduring favorite created by successor confectioner John Pepper: Black Jack molasses sticks. The Spencer, Pepper, and Burkinshaw families have spent more than two centuries formulating sweets that have stood the test of time. You can still observe traditional candy making in the on-site kitchen. Bob Burkinshaw reports the fifth generation of his family doesn’t mind being paid in candy. His grandkids may only be 5, but if tradition holds, there’ll be unicorn fudge for your great-grandchildren to enjoy, too.
Do you love candy stores? Do you have a favorite in New England? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.