By Jason Sheehan
Most candy these days is either mass-produced or fussily overproduced (the bacon-and-rosemary-infused $12 candy bar approach). Could a more straightforward take on old-fashioned, handcrafted candies, nougats, and chocolates pay off?
Philadelphians Eric and Ryan Berley decided to see. First, the brothers opened a time-warp ice-cream parlor and soda fountain called Franklin Fountain in the heart of Philly's Old City in 2004. Then, they turned their antiquarian focus on the nearby 150-year-old Shane Candy Factory, a Philly institution. "We just felt like we were sitting next door to a historical and architectural gold mine," Eric says.
They bought the plant in 2010, spent 18 months on renovations and antique candy equipment repairs, then reopened Shane Confectionery in December of 2011 with no intention of taking shortcuts: no fillers, artificial extracts, or weird flavor combos. The result is a charming mix of nostalgic, hip, and authentic.
Q&A How does one train in the art of making candy? ERIC: There aren't many classes out there for this kind of thing. We studied turn-of-the-century candy-making books. And really, it's about knowing the nuances of the equipment and experimenting to make better candy.
What do you offer that can't be found in a $2 bag of Sour Patch Kids? ERIC: Candy is often a gift—something special. And I wouldn't give cheap candy to anyone. So the candy shop becomes a place for indulgence and for splurging on others. Plus, our candy is uniquely Philadelphian—the recipe for our buttercreams has been made here since 1916. We're trying to give people a memory of Philadelphia.
What's with the facial hair? ERIC: Have you seen the movie Cast Away? For the first 18 months, during the building phase, I was growing this huge Cast Away beard that I was going to shave off when we opened. But when the time came, I decided to keep the mustache because a mustache is kind of a cultural thing, isn't it? It was looked on as a sign of integrity and confidence. It's become part of our store's identity.
PHOTO: HANS GISSINGER