A Sweet Tradition Continues
Peterson’s Candies, famed for years locally for everything chocolate, is under new ownership this year. But the same time-honored traditions and secret recipes are still behind every tasty bite.
Jeremy and Liz Gruber are the new owners at Peterson’s candies, still located at 743 Busti-Sugar Grove Road in Jamestown, NY, behind the famous, huge candy canes that still flank its door. The Grubers bought the business from Steve and Chris Frankson in 2018. Steve and Chris bought the shop in 1990 from Steve’s dad, who bought it from the Petersons in 1976. The Frankson family owned and operated the store for 42 years.
Steve Frankston passed away unexpectedly last year while he and Chris were in the process of selling the business. Jeremy and Liz stepped up and closed the sale, reopening just in time for Christmas.
“We had little experience in this business,” Liz said, though she had briefly worked for the Franksons years before. “I’m a schoolteacher and a librarian. Jeremy was a comptroller at a company in Pennsylvania. But we felt this business would be perfect for our family, which includes our five-year-old son, Jonah. Taking over this business was definitely a leap of faith.”
A New Challenge
“Our biggest challenge,” Jeremy added, “was that we were kind of pressed for time on the learning curve. We wanted to fill our cases for Christmas.” With a big smile and his arm around Liz, he said, “and we did! We sold out, and then we made everything you see here now,” he said, pointing to display cases already well refilled just before the New Year.
Chris Frankson has stayed on as a hands-on consultant to help the Grubers learn the craft of chocolate making. And Dad Winston Frankson – “Win,” now 92 – came back to help them learn a few more fine points of the art.
“This is a gourmet candy shop,” Jeremy said. “We have something special of just about every kind. And for the few things we don’t make in-house, like the dozen flavors of colorful fruit slices, we buy only the very best to share with our customers.
Old Time Skills
“Fine chocolate can be temperamental,” Liz said. “It’s a kind of skill you have to learn by doing. You can’t even find it in the Frankson’s secret recipe book. Win had worked for the Betty Dixon candy company for 30 years before coming here, so he knew some of the best tricks in the industry and passed them down. And when you have an expert like Mrs. Frankson also teaching you, you learn things you can’t find in any book.”
“It’s been nice having Win around,” Jeremy added, “because he can tell us some of the nice ‘touch-and-feel’ things that make the difference. When they come out looking like this,” he motioned toward the display cases, “that’s when you know you’re good, but we’re still working on it.”
Including all the different seasonal varieties – candy canes, Valentine’s Day candy, Easter candy, ribbon candy, fresh made caramel corn every day, and more – Petersons offers hundreds of varieties of special treats. Chris still does all the molding of the chocolates while Jeremy and Liz continue to learn all the new techniques. “They are younger,” Chris said, “and they have the energy. They have enthusiasm, and it’s all good.”
Keeping Old Favorites
“Were not changing the things that people know and love about Petersons Candy,” Jeremy said. “We might introduce some new flavors over time,” Liz added, “but were not taking away anything. That’s because the Franksons got it right, and we know that.” Eventually, we may add county fairs and shows to our repertoire, though, and we are developing a website, and a twitter presence, which will both be new.”
Some of the old favorites include rich, creamy peanut butter squares. “We hand-make the peanut butter right here,” Liz said, “as well as all the other creams and jellies. Another favorite is the ‘Haystack,’ milk chocolate over maple cream wrapped in coconut. And Jeremy completely makes the roasted almond butter crunch from scratch. “We are really proud of it,” Liz said. “We learned from the best.”
“Chocolate covered sponge candy is the hardest one to keep on the shelves,” Jeremy said. “It’s our most popular item. The process to make sponge candy is intricate and fascinating to me. We also regularly make fresh fudge.”
“When you’re buying here you’re buying from a family-owned business. You know where the things you’re buying are coming from,” Liz promised. “That’s not something you can get in the big box stores. Come on in for a real sweet deal.”
To learn more, stop in at 743 Busti-Sugar Grove Rd, Jamestown, NY 14701 or call (716) 487-1595.