If you want to surprise your mom with a very sweet gift on her day, St. Paul offers locally-made chocolate and candies. Here are three shops that I explored this week, each of them delightful in their own way.
With dark woods personifying the chocolate that is sold there, Legacy Chocolates in Merriam Park looks warm and welcoming. Now in its fourth year in Saint Paul, Legacy is one of the newest shops in town. The name of the company reflects the belief of owners Michael and Cathy Roberts in sustainable agriculture, thus leaving a legacy for all who follow. They farm near Pepin, Wisconsin and all of the chocolate sold at the store is made in Menomonie, where they started the incubator business in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
According to Paul Bender, purveyor of chocolate and manager of the store, Legacy uses chocolate made from the Venezuelan-grown Criollo cocoa bean. Small tribes of people who live in the jungles practice sustainable farming as they plant and preserve this 3,000-year-old tradition. The cocoa beans are brought to co-ops where families work to support themselves by removing moisture from the cocoa beans, roasting them, then grinding them.
Truffles are the biggest seller, and Bender says the customer “knows what they’re
getting” because the percentage of chocolate in each truffle is marked on the individual container, ranging from 41% (milk chocolate), to 68% (semi-sweet) to 99% (double chocolate). Especially popular are the classic truffles which are dipped in chocolate then dusted with cocoa powder mimicking the truffle we take from the earth (the mushroom). All chocolates are hand made in small batches. Legacy also sells brownies, the Mayan Experience, which is a decadent sipping chocolate, and Potion # 9, which is a sinfully rich chocolate sauce.
Regina’s Fine Candies
Regina’s Candy Store and Factory is a tradition in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood. Founded in 1926 by Frank Elliott, the store was originally called Central Candy Company. In 1950, he changed the name to honor his wife, Regina. Today the store is owned by Mark Elliott, Frank’s grandson. Store manager is Cindy Racine, a granddaughter.
The store is a delight to the senses with the candy aroma permeating throughout and the colorful shelves and cases displaying an array of chocolate and all other kinds of sweet treats. Racine says with a smile that it’s fun to be a part of the candy store family.
Racine says the chocolate most favored by customers is the English Toffee, rich with pure butter, dipped in milk chocolate, then rolled in ground almonds . Other favorites include solid chocolate, caramels pecanettes, and sweet cream fudge.
All of the candy is made and packed by hand at the factory in back of the store. Each chocolate is engraved with an individual monogram. For the most part the original copper kettles are used, as is the marble table. Old family recipes have been handed down and are still used today.
Regina’s candies are also available at Lund’s and Byerly’s, and at Setzer’s Pharmacy.
Candyland is one of the longest-lasting, most popular destination places in downtown Saint Paul. Since 1932, it has been the place to go for anyone with a craving for sugar. The little store is nearly bursting with goodies of all kinds, from its trademark popcorn to penny candy sweetness, but best of all is the array of chocolates. The Mother’s Day specialty features mouth-watering chocolate dipped strawberries.
Customers can watch through a large window as the chocolates are hand dipped. Brenda Lamb and her husband, Douglas, bought the store in 1981. She says that the Pecan Turtles are the biggest sellers and that,“People stand in line until they’re ready.”
Other chocolates include coconut bon bons, s’mores, and homemade fudge. The fudge is made with pure sugar and sweet cream butter. Brenda Lamb says that it is made from the same recipe that was used in the 1950s. She says, “It’s kind of like the fudge your grandma and grandpa used to make.”
Mary Thoemke, a lifelong resident of St. Paul, lives in the North End neighborhood. Now working as a freelance writer, Mary is retired from the St. Paul Public Schools. She also served as editor of the North End News, a community newspaper.