Veni’s Sweet Shop continues tradition to hand make candy canes

NILES — With machines around the county cranking out thousands of candy canes just in time to hit the store shelves for the holiday season, one Niles candy store is continuing on with its tradition to craft their candy canes the old-fashioned way: by hand.

It’s a labor of love for Veni’s Sweet Shop general manager Linda Skwarcan and store associate Sandy Bennitt, who helps to cook up the in-store made candy canes.

This year customers looking to satiate their sweet tooth or stuff a stocking can choose from 14 different candy cane flavors, including cinnamon, peppermint, raspberry, clove and new this year: tutti-fruity. The candy canes sell at a $1.95 a piece.

Since Veni’s first opened its doors on Main Street in Niles decades ago, in-store cooked candy canes have been a tradition that emphasizes the store’s core value of creating handmade candy that is free of preservatives, waxes and additives. 

Skwarcan and Bennitt start making the first batch of candy canes just after Halloween. The demand for the sweet treats is high. This year alone, Skwarcan said they have made more than 1,500 candy canes to keep up with the demand.

“We have already had to go back and make more,” Skwarcan said.

The laborious process of handcrafting the candy canes was captured on camera by the Niles Main Street Downtown Development Authority and posted on Facebook. Skwarcan credits the video for spurring more customers to come to the Veni’s to buy their candy canes this year.

Skwarcan said the process starts with cooking up a hard candy batch and bringing the mixture to a balmy 300 degrees. Essential oils, which flavor the candy canes, are added and the liquid is poured onto a marble slab that helps to cool the substance. Bennitt will then cut off a portion of a candy loaf to use for the stripes. In the video, viewers can watch Skwarcan stretching the sticky material on a candy cane hook, which helps to add air to the mixture, turning it from a clear color to white. With the help of Bennitt, the substance is shaped into a loaf and the stripes are added before being fed into a batch roller, which keeps the candy loaf warm.  Eventually, the candy loaf will be transformed from hunk of candy to traditional staff-shaped candy cane. 

But the labor is worth producing a customer holiday favorite. 

“These are nicer than a store-bought candy canes,” Skwarcan said. “There is something special about them.”

Unlike processed and packed candy canes cranked out by a machine, the handmade candy canes’ size and stripping will vary slightly from candies in the same batch.

Customers browsing the candy store for other goodies, can also find a host of holiday inspired treats to pick from, including chocolate and peanut butter Santas, fresh-made popcorn in cheese and caramel varieties, gold-colored frankinscenece candies and chocolate advent calendars are also available, to name just a few.

For those interested in learning more about the process of handcrafting candy canes, Skwarcan advised customers to visit Veni’s Facebook page to check out the video. 

Veni’s Sweet Shop is located at 228 E. Main St. For more information, visit venissweetshop.com.

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