Business Spotlight: The Peppermint Stick Candy Store: Sweet & Savvy

When you walk into The Peppermint Stick Candy Store, you might just hear tunes by Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Sam Cooke, the Four Tops, or the Marvelettes.

And that’s because this candy shop in Boyertown is rich with the nostalgia of yesteryear. Oversized rainbow-hued lollipops are always up for proverbial grabs.

But it’s also peppered with sweets for those who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s. Think Hubba Bubba gum, Pop Rocks, Ring Pops, Fun Dip, and the tongue tattoo-ready Fruit Stripe gum.

And modern candy to truly test taste buds—including kinds which make your mouth shrink back from the sour factor, like the Warhead-competing bite of Toxic Waste, and Jelly Belly’s BeanBoozled game trickery of lime versus lawn clippings, buttered popcorn versus rotten egg, and chocolate pudding versus canned dog food—joins an inventory of artisan truffles of specialty ingredient blends.

 

Rachael Kehler opened her candy business in the early months of 2015 a few shops away and doubled her storefront size by relocating to 26 East Philadelphia Avenue this autumn.

Leaving behind jobs in catering and on-the-road education about animals served Rachael well as she began to understand that owning a candy store brought her a lot more happiness, especially when she sees children’s eyes grow wide as they yell, “THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!” upon opening the shop door, spying the selection.

“I thought this would be a fun business and that it would fit well into Boyertown being close to the Colebrookdale Railroad since I noticed so many people visiting to ride the train,” she says.

Now, two or three times a week, customers visit and share stories of the candy shops (and general or hardware stores with candy sections) they went to in their own childhoods, sometimes as far away as New Jersey.

The penny candy section is one of the most popularly perused areas, as it’s not only more candy for the money, but the shelving is also hand-built from old barn wood and designed by Rachael’s husband, Gene. The prices are spelled out in white chalk.

“That’s how I learned to count money when I was five-years-old,” she explains about the value of penny candy in absorbing math lessons from picking out and paying for her own sweets as a girl.

So she’s glad to be a part of helping kids around the region understand their first exposure to purchasing something of their own or at least counting out the coins which they might receive from their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

It’s also easy to notice people slowing down to be a bit more human in the shop, compared to the often cell phone-glued world so many of us are locked into today.

When smiles grow and stick around as customers pick out what they want, it’s clear that this is more than just about buying something. It’s about an experience. And with less candy shops out in the world nowadays, the nostalgic feel of this one seems to be all the more valued by those who find their way inside during store hours.

Since moving to the new storefront, Rachael began making several varieties of fudge. With taste-testing as an automatic perk, her daughter Mariellen, 14, and Gabe, 11, as well as Gene, help to run the shop. Attending candy expos isn’t so bad, either.

Special orders from customers who want candy which they can’t easily find or get elsewhere also receive thankful attention.

Sugar-free, gluten-free, and vintage kinds are sometimes requested.

One customer recently couldn’t find Sprees, which debuted in the 1960s, and delighted in seeing them newly added to the store shelves.

Candy buffets are something else unique in the shop’s forte. With glass apothecary jars of all shapes, sizes, and plain looks or fancy designs, candy buffets are often color-themed. But one even took on a barnyard persona.

The buffets tend stir guests at birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, and confirmation celebrations into an animated frenzy, as they probably don’t expect this higher level of fun in their nibbling choices.

And new this winter are candy sticks—clear plastic ribbon-wrapped tubes with more of a gift box appeal. Gummies, chocolate-covered peanuts, and fruit slices of banana, pineapple, and mango covered in chocolate are just some of the lineup.

Eighty-eight-year-old Olga Campfield lives on the outskirts of the City of Reading and visits Rachael’s shop, a 19-mile trip, like clockwork every other Saturday with her daughters Kim or Allison.

“I buy one pound of her salted milk chocolate caramels,” Olga says. “And I buy two pounds of chocolate licorice.”

Her shop is lovely, Olga beams.

“Rachael is a darling girl—I adore her,” she says. “I can’t say enough nice things about her. She’s very sweet and helpful.”

A friend of Stacy Gerhart’s son told her about the shop.

“I was very excited because the store sells old-fashioned candy, and it reminded me of my childhood,” Stacy says about her first visit.

Now she and her children stop in every Wednesday. They buy the truffle of the week. Her kids get gummy worms, she grabs NECCO Wafers, and they take home a chocolate-covered pretzel for her husband.

“We’re so in love with the place that we sometimes go there more than once a week,” Stacy adds.

“It gives me a feeling of accomplishment that I’m doing the right thing,” Rachael says about her heart-balancing career move in glimpsing families during special moments in her shop. “And Boyertown is charming.”