Small-town chocolatiers make a sweet stop for Valentine’s Day
Planning a romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day? Don’t forget, along the way, to collect sweets for your darling.
Wherever your travels take you in the Buckeye State, you’ll find some great candy nearby. (Pro tip: During a romantic getaway, it’s also a plus to speak a little French.)
Ohio is blessed, perhaps by Cupid, with an abundance of great-tasting small-town chocolatiers and confectioners, many of which have been established for decades – or much longer.
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Wittich Fine Candy in Circleville
When it comes to sweet, sweet history, it’s hard to top the nation’s oldest family-run candy store. Candy-making doesn’t get much more venerable – or tastier – than at Wittich’s Fine Candies (117 W. High St., www.witchscandyshop.com) in the National Historic District of downtown Circleville.
“At least we think we’re the older ones,” said Janet Wittich, the current sweetness matriarch.
“No one could say we’re not,” Wittich said.
“There’s an old candy store in Salem, Massachusetts, but it’s not owned by the same family.”
The shop, in addition to an unquestionable pedigree, sports an authentic 1940s soda fountain and counter, relocated to Wittich’s in 1997 after an ice cream shop in Columbus closed.
It’s a great place to sit and watch Wittich’s confectioners work their magic on a melted chocolate worktable just behind the main display cases.
All of Wittich’s sweets, in fact, are handmade every day.
The shop also sells a wide variety of DIY candy-making supplies.
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Dietsch Brothers at Findlay
Dietsch Brothers Chocolates and Ice Cream (400 W. Main Cross St., www.dietschs.com) in Findlay dates back to 1937 and has become a must-visit destination for visitors to the county seat of Hancock.
Ice cream at Dietsch Brothers is almost as popular as candy, with favorites such as Buckeye, a mix of peanut butter ice cream, chocolate sauce and miniature “buckeye” candies. Dietsch also makes delicious ice cream cakes and pies.
But at this time of year, it’s the chocolates that must reign supreme. And the huge Main Street store is lined with counters stocked with a wide variety of mouth-watering chocolates and other goodies. Dietsch Brothers also has a second Findlay store at 1217 Tiffin Ave., and also sells through a number of outlets across the state, including Hills Market in Columbus.
Brummer’s Vermilion Chocolates
Brummer Chocolates (672 Main Street, www.brummers.com) in Vermilion was founded in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1904. Bob Brummer brought the family’s chocolate-making expertise to the shore of Lake Erie in 1980.
Sadly, New Jersey Brummer’s closed in 2020 after 116 years in business, but the Vermilion shop is still going strong — and sweet — and chocolates are still made there with the same century-old family recipes.
Brummer’s also sells a variety of fine wines (nothing to sneeze at on a romantic trip), unique gift items, and an interesting selection of colorful Polish pottery.
It’s easy to see why Brummer’s is a popular stop in pretty little downtown Vermilion, which draws visitors year-round, including the annual Ice A Fair festival scheduled for February 5 this year.
Mary’s Sweets in West Liberty
Bonbons de Marie (311 Zanesfield Road, www.mariescandies.com) in West Liberty was started on the family farm in 1956 by founder Marie King to make ends meet after her husband was disabled by polio.
The current generation, including Rebecca King Craig, Marie King’s granddaughter, now operates the store and candy-making operation from the historic West Liberty railroad depot.
The depot, built in 1926, was moved to its current site and restored by Craig’s parents in 1993.
“My parents just couldn’t bear to see the old building crumble,” Craig said.
Her family therefore incorporated the depot into the family business, where it serves as a beautiful and functional showroom for all the tasty varieties of Marie’s Candies, including Marie’s original signature piece, a chocolate mint chew. unusual and delicious, which is pulled like taffy.
Although West Liberty has fewer than 2,000 residents, the confectionery has thankfully become a well-known stop for area travelers visiting nearby sites such as Ohio Caverns, Piatt Castle Mac-A-Cheek and Indian Lake, Craig said.
And if you’re looking for even more flavor in Ohio, the lovely folks at the Miami County Visitors Bureau have followed a Buckeye Candy Trail guide (https://www.homegrowngreat.com/tour/ohio-buckeye-candy-trail/ ) with 37 stops statewide.
Steve Stephens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Email him at [email protected].