Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie

My name is Lisa and I am a chocolateholic. I consume it for every occasion (celebratory or solemn) and mood (happy, depressed, uninspired, PMS, ect.). Last Thursday, when I got up extra early to study for an exam that was later that morning, I was popping mini Hershey Easter eggs. And when the test was over, where was I to be found? At Oprah Winfrey’s favorite place for chocolate, the Ye Old Pepper Companie in Salem, Massachusetts,  which is also America’s oldest candy company. 

The interior of the Ye Old Pepper Companie with its floral wallpaper, cloud white curtains, pale pink shelves, lace table cloths, and colorful big bows helped spring me into the Easter mood when I stepped through the door. Their rich chocolate is still handmade using the original recipes from when it was founded in 1806, and only the best and most fresh grade A butter, dairy cream, fruits, and nuts are baked inside their copper kettles over open-fire gas stoves. For those of you who aren't the biggest chocolate fans, you can still come, as they are also produce various arrays of  lollipops, taffy, fudge, and other hard candies. 

The Ye Old Companie has been profiled on the TV shows Chronicle, Food Network, and Phantom Gourmet and written about in American Road, American Profile, and The Salem News. In November 2009, their turtles were featured as one of 'Oprah’s Favorite Things' in The Oprah Magazine and last year the store was voted 'Best Candy Shop' by North Shore Magazine

Mary Spencer had all but the clothes on her back when she moved to America with her son, Thomas, from England. When a neighbor found out she knew how to make candy, the two pitched in together to buy a struggling Spencer a barrel of candy so she could start up her own business selling a type of candy called Salem Gibralter, which is said to be the first cane made and sold commercially in America. At first, she sold it only to Salem residents and crew ships only, but when others found out about Spencer’s gift, she purchased a horse drawn wagon (which can be found at the Peabody Essex Museum)to start traveling across the North Shore. This is why the company’s logo is a sketching of Spencer pulling a wagon.

After Spencer’s death, Thomas managed the business until 1830 when he returned to the mother country to inherit a fortune. He sold the company to John William Pepper who renamed it Ye Olde Pepper Companie. He continued to sell Salem Gibralter, as well the first stick candy manufactured in America called the Black Jack, which is made of black strap molasses.

For over two hundred years now, the Burkinshaw family have been the owners of the Ye Olde Candy Companie, and they still sell Gibralter and Black Jacks. In fact, they actually have candy on display that is over 150 years old. The first Burkinshaw went to work for Mr. Pepper in the 1800s sweeping the floors, and eventually worked his way up through shipping and manufacturing before purchasing the company.  

During my visit, I bought three of their world famous turtles- almond (dad’s), cashew (mom’s), and dark chocolate with sea salt (mines). They were all recommended to me by their new cashier who was more than happy to help.  Each turtle proved chocolate is God’s greatest creation, and it was the best treat while I watched the crazy season finale of Pretty Little Liars.

With Easter being five days away, it’s time to run on down to Salem to fill your baskets with Ye Olde Companie's goodies. The sweet tooths of your loved ones are guaranteed to be in heaven. As American cartoonist Charles M. Schulz once said, “all you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt. 

Ye Old Candy Companie 
122 Derby Street 
Salem, Massachusetts 01970 

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