I went to my hometown of St. Marys, WV with Lori and Luke to visit family last week for the July 4th weekend. It was a great time filled with lots of the things I did growing up such as spending hours on an ATV...Canoeing Middle Island Creek...Running on the trails on Middle Island's Nature Preserve...Picking gallons and gallons of wild blackberries and boysenberries with my brothers...and fishing with my dad, four brothers and 3 of my cousins. It was a busy visit but this time of the year is about the only time we get to visit these days since our schedules are always filled with all things track & field...
The most pleasant surprise was to find "Smith's Candy" Store on Main Street next to the train tracks (Trivia Note: I believe St. Marys, WV is the only town/city in the US with train tracks still running down Main Street.). Mike and Julie Smith are the owners...I've known Mike since middle school...We even did a few skits for our high school tv program. Regardless, you have to try their candy. It's amazing...They have Handmade Lollipops, Cut Rock Candy, Railroad Sticks, Cotton Candy, Homemade Fudge other specialty items like fresh dipped strawberries. If you can't make a trip to St. Marys then give them a call or go to their website to have them mail it. And if you are looking for a special, unique gift they will deliver.
St. Marys WV, 26170
Visit there Smith Candies Website
Luke was our taste tester...When it comes to candy you can' fool a 6 year old and he agreed it is "really good!"
Mike Smith (Center) in 1983 as we lined up as the "Mr. SMHS" finalists at St. Marys High School. L-R...Brian Kincaid, Mike Dunigan, Mike Smith, Rob Miller and Me
ST. MARYS, W.Va. - The owners of Smith's Candy in St. Marys want their business to be one of the first to start revitalizing the downtown area of St. Marys.
Mike and Julie Smith have owned Susan Kay Candies in Parkersburg since 1999 and recently moved their operations to Pleasants County and opened their new location, in the former Western Auto Building at the corner of Second and Main streets, over Memorial Day weekend.
Once the middle body, the jacket and stripes are put together, Mike Smith puts the entire slab of candy on a batch roller to roll it out.
The building houses their candy making operation as well as a small retail shop.
The company makes 10 flavors of lollipops, 21 flavors of cut rock candies, cotton candies, Julie's Homemade Fudge and more, Mike said. They also make special items which are only available at their new retail shop.
''We are currently making in excess of 100,000 pounds of candy a year,'' he said. ''We are working on reviving some of the old recipes.''
The company recently got the rights and recipes for Wolfe's Railroad Sticks, a soft centered stick candy, from a company in Clarksburg which stopped production on them about five years ago. They are hoping to begin production soon and tie it into the fact St. Marys still has railroad tracks running down Main Street.
''We want to create a presence locally and via the Internet,'' Mike said ''The railroad sticks will be our next big venture. They are totally handmade and totally unique.''
Many of their traditional products, like the lollipops, are still being made under the 'Susan Kay Candies' name, while anything new they come up with will be made under the 'Smith Candy' name. Susan Kay Candies had been in business in Parkersburg since 1952.
The Smiths spent more than 10 years in Parkersburg at their location on 33rd Street. After a two-year process, they moved the business to St. Marys to be closer to their home and family.
''We were on a dead-end street in Parkersburg and we didn't have much walk-in traffic,'' Julie said. ''When we saw this place, we decided that we wanted to do a little retail shop.''
In addition to their candies, they also sell items from local and state artisans they have met, including candles, woodwork, art and Amish items.
''We wanted to help them out. I thought it would be neat,'' Julie said. ''The retail side has been nice and it stays steady enough. I didn't expect much.
''I went from nothing to this. It is just nice to visit with everybody. It is a fresh thing in St. Marys.''
Justin O’Neil of Smith’s Candy in St. Marys pours around 50 pounds of candy mix onto a cooling table. The mix will be used to make lollipops. Smith’s Candy (also Susan Kay Candies) makes 100,000 pounds of candy a year.
Visitors to the shop can stand and watch the candies being made from a series of windows in the shop.
''The observation windows invite everyone to be able to watch and see what goes into it,'' Julie said. ''It is amazing that people will buy the flavor you are making when you give them a sample.''
People can now watch them through every step in the process.
Matt Dennis and Andrea Smith work to assemble lollipops at Smith’s Candy in St. Marys. Smith adds sticks to the balls of heated candy while Dennis uses a press to flatten them into the traditional lollipop shape.
''That is what is unique about our shop,'' Mike said. ''No one else in the state makes candy like this. People can see it.''
Their first couple of weeks in operation, they were able to bring in school groups to watch them through the windows.
They have a sitting room with old candy making equipment on display. Some of the equipment they still use dates backs to the late 1800s and early 1900s. They have put up Bible verses personal to them on the walls in the production area.
The business has product in seven states, Mike said. Some of their clients are amusement parks like Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio; Dorney Park near Allentown, Pa., and Camden Park in Huntington as well as Tamarack in Beckley and grocery and convenience stores. They have distributors in Nashville, Tenn., and Columbia, S.C.
Justin O’Neil puts the finished lollipops on a table to cool. Soon they will be wrapped and prepared for shipping.
They have six employees, including the Smiths' daughter Andrea who wants to take over the business one day and has been learning about the different aspects of the business.
''She knows everything to do as she has been through every part of it during good times and bad,'' Julie said.
The shop is open regularly from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. On Fridays and Saturdays, they are offering fresh-dipped strawberries.
The Smiths said the support from the community has been wonderful during the transition.
''It has been a dream of ours to come up here and help support the community,'' Mike said. ''It has been awesome and we are hoping to be able to give back in the same way.''
They had a lot of help moving equipment from family, friends and volunteers.
''I didn't realize how much the community would pull together and see something like this takes place,'' he said. ''I think this is going to be more of a trend in this whole downtown area. I am in the Amish country a lot servicing stores. I see how some of these small towns are prospering using these kind of cottage industries.
''I think this town is ready for that.''
Susan Kay Candy
I agree with you! Susan Kay Candys is the best! I should know since i did work there. It is a very long process to make the candy but it is all worth it in the long run! What is so special about it is that they make it all by hand and VERY old candy machine's.
Mike and Julie( owners) if you are reading this, you know your candy, fudge and suckers are the bomb and how are you doing with out me there? LOL
Know if you have not had the chance to try the candy stop in at there shop and they would be more than happy to let you sample it! They are a good christian family! Love you all and hope to see you soon when i stop in. Easter is comming up so i need to stock up!
Pros: Its the bomb!
Unbelievable hard candy!
I stopped at the gas station last weekend and picked up some candy from Susan Kay Candies. Not knowing anything about it, it was the flavor that "called" my name. I love licorice candy, and usually it is not a strong flavor.....this was! Not only was the flavor spot on, it was CRUNCHY too! The perfect combination for those who like hard candy.....I totally recommend it and am trying to find out how to get more! In fact, I have eaten so much that my tongue is sore!
Pros: All of it!