As the wise man 50 Cent once said, “Take me to the candy shop.” Fortunately, Iowans do not have to look far to find one in the Hawkeye State. Whether you are a chocolate connoisseur, a hard candy cruncher, a sucker for soft candy, or a gummy groupie, there is an Iowa candy shop for you!
Starting in 2009, Mattie Hershberger crafted hand-made chocolates in the basement of her parents’ Kalona home. After outgrowing this space, the newly-dubbed Kalona Chocolates moved to a downtown Kalona storefront providing Hershberger the opportunity to sell from there while also catering to wholesale accounts. For chocolate lovers, there is an option to buy their most popular chocolates in one box. Kalona’s most-popular chocolates are sea salt caramels, English toffee, and tadpoles, which are similar to turtle candies. They also have truffles, creams, and chocolate clusters.
Opened in 1972 by Norm and RuthAnn VanDonslear, the Sugar Shack is currently run by the Daugherty family who bought it in 1988. Throughout their ownership, they have expanded twice inside the historic Central Emporium in Arnolds Park. While they are only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, employee Jay Daugherty told The N’West Iowa REVIEW that customers can find unique candies such as Abba Zaba’s, Big Hunk’s, and the British version of Marathon bars. They also have a variety of candies to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth like chocolate-covered peanuts and several types of gummies.
Everyone knows about Twin Bings. According to Palmer’s Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe Assistant Manager Monica Waldon, Twin Bings are the most popular item at the Sioux City candy store. In addition to this delectable delight, Palmer’s also has chocolate covered-peanuts, peppermint twists, Swedish fish, and roasted nuts. Customers can also buy homemade brittle, gourmet truffles, and fudge created in flavor combinations like Chewy Praline and Rocky Road, and specialty savory items. This candy shop also includes a small museum with its retired candy-making equipment, vintage photos, and other items.
Located in Chariton since 1903, this grocery store used to be a one-trick pony until 1947. Back then, Piper’s was strictly a grocery store until retiring owner Joe Piper let his son, Bob, and his wife, Ruth, take over the store and they started making delicious homemade candy. Sitting on the northeast corner of Chariton’s square, it still maintains its vintage look. Piper’s is currently owned by Jill Kerns.
Its candy is made by hand in small batches using the same recipes and techniques Bob and Ruth developed years ago. Piper’s top-selling candies are the turtles and dark chocolate dipped mints followed closely by its toffee and sea salt dipped caramels, according to Jill. You can also order the candy from its website. Also, as an FYI, I am not the only one who wants you to visit this place. Former Hawkeye and current Minnesota Viking Tight End T.J. Hockenson said Piper’s Candy is the coolest place in his hometown of Chariton.
Located in the historic Amana Colonies, The Chocolate Haus has chocolates, caramels, and fudge in addition to an espresso cafe where it serves lattes, smoothies, hot chocolate, and other drinks. According to KCRG, the store’s recipes are more than 100 years old. The Chocolate Haus offers a subscription box, which brings a curated box of goodies to your doorstep each month. One of its most popular products are its truffles, and it also sells chocolate caramel apples and fudge drops.
Slightly over a year old, Storm Lake Candy Co. has already made a mark on its namesake community. Its most popular items are fudge, chocolates, and ice cream. The fudge comes in a number of different options and you also buy chocolate gift boxes. It also has a bunch of chocolate-covered items like cashews and almonds. In addition to their popular ice cream, they have ice cream cakes and pies. According to the BV Tack, owner Ruth Whitmore opened the story because she wanted to “bring back the joy and wonder of childhood to Storm Lake.”
Sweets and Treats was founded by Phil Shive in 1983 in downtown Iowa City and has been owned and operated by Monique Holtkamp since 2010. This business has won a variety of awards including a Top Chef Award in 2016 and 2017, Best Candy Store and Kindness Award in 2017, and Best Candy Store in 2022, according to the Sweets and Treats website. Monique said her guests enjoy all the fun and wild things Sweets and Treats has in stock Its most popular candies are sea salt caramels, truffles, and sour candy. It also offers cherry sour balls, hot cocoa bombs, Jelly Belly candies, and much more.
George Demopolus opened Lillie Mae Chocolates in Marshalltown in 1939 and named the candy store after his daughter, Lillie Mae. These days, Aimee Deimerly-Snyder and Tom Snyder own the place. After moving through several locations in Marshalltown—including Aimee and Tom’s home at one point—it reopened as a storefront in 2020 in the historic 13th St. District.
Visitors can now watch the timeless recipes used to make the candy and see the creation of these handmade, hand-dipped delights. Lillie Mae Chocolates’ most popular flavor is the TorTush which is a mixture of homemade caramel with pecans and English walnuts, according to Aimee. In general, caramel is its most popular category of candy, which is ironic for a place with chocolate in its name. According to the Times-Republican, Lillie Mae Chocolates also offers gluten-free products.
by Sean Dengler
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