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Local Candy Shops Make Gift-Giving Extra Sweet

by and on December 17, 2019 5:00 AM

For anyone looking to shop local to find stocking stuffers, corporate gifts, or just something that will be appreciated by that person on your list who already seems to have everything, a trip to one of the area’s local candy shops will almost certainly fit the bill.

Gardners Candies has been making candy since 1897, and the Tyrone-based company has had a presence in State College for many years, including its former location at the Nittany Mall. The shelves in the current store at the TJ Maxx Plaza on North Atherton Street are neatly stacked with chocolate treasures, including bags of chocolate-covered pretzels, bins of holiday-themed molded candy like milk chocolate Santas and white chocolate snowflakes, and beautifully wrapped boxes of assorted chocolates, like caramels, toffee, cream-filled candies, and, of course, plenty of Gardners’ best-selling candy, the Original Peanut Butter Meltaway.

In the back of the store, a long glass display case holds a huge assortment of candy. Workers behind the counter will fill boxes with the items you hand select. For an even more personalized gift, the company can make your business logo into a chocolate treat, according to Joe DiStadio, company president.

While chocolate takes center stage in the shop, it’s certainly not the only kind of goody you’ll find there. Gardners’ own roasted cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans and macadamia nuts are available by the pound. A whole section is devoted to penny candy, including hard-to-find old-school favorites like rock candy, wax lips, and Wonka Bottle Caps. Non-candy items like plush toys and gingerbread kits are also available.

DiStadio, who took over as president of the company in September, said, “Our products speak for themselves. It’s a very high quality chocolate. And the quality of the nuts we use is really phenomenal. I’m a little biased, but it’s hard not to be.”

Gardners Candies’ shelves are filled with pre-boxed candies ready for gift-giving. Photo by Karen Walker | For the Gazette

Across town, at 107 W. Main Street in Boalsburg, is another specialty candy shop: Chocolates by Leopold. The store has been open since 2015, but the company has been making candy for 57 years. All of its chocolate is manufactured in the company’s Montrose factory under the direction of master chocolatier, Leo Schreiber.

The shop’s walls are painted a cheery teal blue to match the company’s logo, and the displays are meticulously arranged to show off beautifully packaged chocolate delights. Glass cases hold assorted chocolate-covered treats, including graham crackers, potato chips, and pretzels, and assorted candies that can be chosen to create a customized gift box. Special Christmas items include molded chocolate pops shaped like Rudolph, Christmas trees, snowmen and gingerbread men, and a special seasonal treat in the candy case: the egg nog truffle. Hanukkah-themed treats are also available.

The company’s most popular item is Buttercrunch, a butter toffee hand-dipped in dark or milk chocolate and topped with crushed almonds, using the same German recipe that has been handed down for four generations.

New this year, Chocolates by Leopold has partnered with local distillery Barrel 21 to create a Bourbon Caramel Pecan Patty. The creation uses Barrel 21’s White Tail Pennsylvania Bourbon and is available in a 12-piece gift box.

Like Gardners Candies’, Chocolates by Leopold can create custom chocolate treats as corporate gifts, ranging from customized candy bar wrappers to chocolates molded in the shape of a company logo or just about any other object.

Owner and president Michelle Depue said the company works hard to find the best ingredients for all of their candy, including imported butter for the Buttercrunch and ginger for their chocolate-covered ginger treats.

“We print this on all of our boxes, and we really believe it: ‘The Way Chocolate Should Taste,’ she said. “We tend to ruin other chocolates for people.”

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Karen Walker
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