Visit Iconic Candy Makers in Indiana!
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You may not have known that the Hoosier state has amazing confectioners, but there are world-known candy makers in Indiana. Here are 2 gems to visit that do not disappoint!
There are other candy stores… but not like this. On the Southern Indiana border, just across the river from Louisville is a one-of-a-kind. Schimpff’s Confectionery is one of the oldest family-owned candy makers in the US. It’s been operating at the same historic site since 1891! They still use the antique candy molds & equipment that the Schimpff family has, now, for over a century. Their candy is hand-made with not only the same process, molds & antique equipment his great grandfather used 130 years ago, but with his hand-written recipe from the same Victorian era. No conveyor belts, no machines popping sweet treats out. Hand-made by Mr & Mrs Schimpff, and the helping hands of their staff. You can watch the entire process right behind the counter in their candy kitchen. There’s a step in front for little ones to have a front-row view. That’s fun and super cool to watch & eat, but, that’s not all that makes it taste so good.
The Schimpff family immigrated from Bavaria and has been making candy in the area since the 1850’s. In 1990, the Candy Man, Warren Schimpff, and his wife, Jill, moved across the country to buy the candy business from his aunt’s estate to maintain the Schimpff family’s candy legacy. They left their careers, Warren a PHD in Environmental Chemistry, and Jill, an English instructor at a California college, and haven’t looked back. They expanded in 2001, the 110th anniversary, to include the candy kitchen & demo area, candy museum, and have restored the building, helping to revitalize the historic downtown district of Jeffersonville. Their candy making legacy, process, & hand-made candies have been highlighted on both the Food Network, the History Channel’s Modern Marvels, USA Today Travel & more.
I have a confession. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I’m not easily wooed by every sugary confection that comes my way. Schimpff’s is an exception. The 2nd surprise is that I’ve never really liked cinnamon candy, at least that’s what I thought until I tried theirs. Now, they’re a favorite and I’m not the only one. They are perfection and I can’t imagine there’s a better or equal cinnamon candy out there, anywhere. Their amazing, famous Red Hots have this cinnamon-ey warmth that isn’t just heat, but a depth of rich cinnamon flavor that is far superior to the imitation, cheap flavorings others use. Their Asian cinnamon oil is high quality at $50 a bottle. It’s worked in by hand using Gus Schimpff Sr’s directions from his hand-written recipe book from the 1880s. It’s balanced by a light sweetness, just enough. Oh my goodness, a must try! They ship all over the continental US, if you can’t wait for a trip!
Live candy-making demonstrations are given using great grandpa’s equipment. You’ll see the sugars boiled in a large candy kettle, then poured onto a table and folded by hand as they quickly cool. The pure oils are poured over the molten, hardening sugar and worked in, giving tiny variations of flavor to each finished piece. The candy is folded and plied until it is lifted from the table like a big, chubby baby. Some candies are pulled & twisted, then hand-shaped into a log. The Candy Man snips off a handful with sturdy shears, then rolls it into sticks or canes, or through an antique candy press for bite-sized shapes. They come off in a sheet and are dropped onto the counter where it bursts into individual pieces. The best part is eating a sample of the candy you watched being made… Candy- fresh and still warm. It will ruin you for all other. The love they have for candy & this family legacy comes through in every bite.
They also have a small, free museum, one of the few candy museums in the US. It displays vintage candy memorabilia- retro packaging & advertising, antique candy molds & tins, and even an antique candy vending machine. On display is a world’s largest gummy bear at 5 pounds of chewy goodness.
At lunchtime, their Sandwich & Soda Shop is open with a 1950s soda fountain that serves traditional malts, milkshakes, sundaes, and sodas, including cherry and chocolate Cokes. They also have soup, sandwiches and homemade desserts. Lunch hours for the sandwich shop are typically 11-3, weekdays, and 11- 2 on Saturdays.
And, before you leave, visit their candy gift shop. They have some nostalgic retro sweets, but the majority contains one of the 60-80 varieties hand-made at Schimpffs. They’re famous for Cinnamon Red Hots, hard candy fish, Modjeskas (caramel covered gooey marshmallows) & chocolate turtles, but there’s something for everyone. In addition to hard candies, they make handmade chocolates, caramel, nut brittles, toffee, ribbon Christmas candy, candy canes & sticks, mint barks, multiple flavors & shapes of hard candies, & more! They have sugar free chocolates. Handmade candy ‘glass’ animal toys. Candy for every holiday in a variety of flavors.
Since 1891, Schimpff’s Confectionery has survived wars, legendary fires & floods, the Great Depression, & recessions through 4 generations. The small town, itself, was active in the Underground Railroad & Civil War. You’ll find Schimpffs still at 347 Spring Street in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Or let your nose be your guide. Smells of yummy goodness waft out onto the sidewalks, the best advertising money could buy. Step back into history. Quaint & lovely & deliciously fantastic, Schimpffs is a must if you’re near Louisville & absolutely worth the trip if you’re a Hoosier, Kentuckian or a Buckeye. Less than 2 hours from Indy, just across the river from Louisville, you can also order select candy online. An Indiana treasure and absolute delight!
Typically open 10-5, weekdays, closed Sundays and on & before select holidays. Call ahead for demo times.
2. Albanese Confectionery Candy Factory + Outlet in NW Indiana
For another ‘wow’ experience with candy makers in Indiana, Albanese in the Northwest of the state is candy goodness in overdrive. Also family owned, they’ve been in business for 36 years, opening their factory in 1983. Their machinery isn’t antique, it’s cutting edge tech. Albanese has become a global industry leader, pioneering new processes for a more intense flavor in gummi candy (& vitamins). More than just gummies, their chocolate concoctions are award winning, too. Just 3 miles off the busy interstate, the factory & store see 1 million annual visitors based on 3 main draws.
- They use high quality ingredients to make intensely flavored candy, over 500 kinds. Their chocolates (milk, white, dark & yogurt) also include combos, such as coated pretzels, nuts, berries, popcorn, malt balls, espresso beans, haystacks, caramels, buckeyes & coated gummi bears! For a fruity taste, their gummies come in a rainbow of assorted colors, shapes, & flavors you never imagined. In addition to gummi bears, papa bears & mini cubs, and gummi worms & snakes, they have gummi butterflies (large & small), rainforest frogs, flowers, army men, fighter jets, rings, smilies, & sharks. Seasonal gummies include snowflakes & snowmen, pumpkins & spooky mix, Christmas trees, Easter bunnies & eggs, hearts and X & O’s.
Their gummi bears are available in 14 unique flavors. You can buy individual or assorted flavors by the pound. Albanese gummies are an international hit, selling over 300,000 pounds a day. The 2nd highest gummi sales in the world, they ship to 41 countries. Albanese is interplanetary, too, one of the few candies flown into space. Astronauts become congested in zero gravity making food taste bland, so they prefer stronger flavors. Albanese gummies are packed with flavor, even enough for space! Flavors include:
- orange creamsicle (‘bearsicle’)]
- blue watermelon
- blue raspberry
- pink grapefruit
- wild cherry
- green apple
- orange, grape, strawberry, pineapple
- white strawberry banana
- berry red
- sour versions & milk chocolate, and cran-apple coming at the start of 2020. Some shapes also come in peach, watermelon, lemon or lime.
2. They have an outlet store to purchase bulk candy at a discount. Their “gummi goof-ups’ are available at steep discounts, pounds of candies that have minor defect, but that are just as tasty as the flawless ones. The candy store is very large with hundreds of choices, something for everyone. The majority of their candy and all of their gummies are gluten free. They have sugar-free gummies & chocolates, and less sugary options such as nuts & mixes. Several different samples are available to try.
3. They offer a behind the scenes glimpse of their candy factory, the only public ‘tour’ for gummi manufacturing in the US. It is wheelchair accessible with low windows for those in wheelchairs & little kids. Not a traditional tour, but a look through 8 large windows onto the candy manufacturing floor. Two videos play overhead, one detailing the gummi process, the other for their gold label chocolates. It takes 10-15 minutes.
An unlikely Candy Man, Scott Albanese came from a blue collar background & started work as a bricklayer. But, in a tight economy, newly married & broke, he looked toward a business he could own, himself. He started a simple candy store, but customers were scarce for the 1st 3 years. He didn’t give up. He stuck with the plan- high quality, lowest possible prices and, eventually, people came. 5 years after opening, he began to manufacture his own candy to better control the quality & product. Today, his dreams, hard work & persistence have built a 400,000 sq ft manufacturing facility. They provide jobs to over 400 and are a boon to the region’s economy. And a candy legacy for his family to continue to grow. Today, he runs the business with his wife & 3 daughters.
Just a tiny sample of the goodies at Albanese Confectionery!
Albanese candies have been featured on the Cooking channel, Food Network Magazine, & Food Network- Unwrapped. A little over 2 hours from Indy, less than an hour from Chicago, you can visit the Albanese factory & outlet at 5441 East Lincoln Hwy in Merrillville, Indiana. Look for the happy, Victorian-style house which is the store, attached to the factory. Inside, kids will delight at watching the largest chocolate waterfall in the US. And candy of virtually every kind & color with samples to try. Another outlet store (no factory or tour) is available at 1910 81st Ave in Merrillville. Tours are free. November & December and March & April, no tours are available, but Santa & the Easter Bunny visit. They’re open Monday thru Saturday 9a- 8p, and Sundays 10a- 6p. School breaks or weekends, particularly in summer, is very crowded, but good proof of its popularity. Tons of flavor, soft, gummi goodness. Chocolates of many kinds. Kids & sweet lovers will adore!
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