Staff photographer Steve Klise and I traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to get some sweet inspiration. We found it at Eagle Family Candy Company, where they produce more than 20 different kinds of candy. While we liked just about everything we tried, the buckeye candies made a lasting impression on us. Keep reading to learn more about the company, which has been in operation for more than a century.
Where We Went
If you’re in Columbus during the warmer months, the Park of Roses—with over 350 different types of roses—is a must-see.
It's a week after Easter and the shelves of Eagle Family Candy Company in Columbus, Ohio, are mostly empty except for the green shredded-plastic grass that lines children's Easter baskets. The chocolate bunnies are all gone. I ring a bell at the counter, and James Peck, co-owner of the company with Dee Dee Eagle, emerges from behind a deep-brown curtain that matches the walls—the shop has a dark-chocolate motif.
The Eagle Family Candy Company was founded in 1912 by George Eagle, Dee Dee's great-grandfather. Over the years, the business thrived, growing to include eight locations throughout Columbus. Today, however, the shop on North High Street is the only one remaining.
At Valentine's Day, Easter, and Christmas, Peck makes up to 100 pounds of candy a day. “The toughest part about [the business] is it's very seasonal. You gotta make your money when you can.”
Peck takes me behind the curtain to see how the shop's 20-plus varieties of candy are made. The facility is divided into four adjoining rooms, each with a name. The Packing Room, where the candies are boxed to order, sits closest to the front of the store. Next is The Beater Room. Here, molten sugar is whipped with butter and flavorings in heirloom cream beaters that combine and cool the ingredients for buttercream. All the equipment is from the 1940s and ’50s—stand mixers, faded copper kettles, a water-cooled steel table for tempering fudge and toffee. “We're still doing it the same way we used to,” Peck says, referring not only to the equipment but also to the techniques, which were handed down by his father-in-law.
Mints are made in The Mint Room, and all the candies are finished in The Enrober Room, where they're loaded onto a conveyor belt and rolled through a curtain of melted chocolate. As the candies exit the enrober, they're marked “C” for chocolate buttercream and “V” for vanilla buttercream. Finally, the conveyor belt transports the candies through an air-cooled tunnel to The Packing Room.
Peck hands me an Eaglette, their version of a chocolate-covered caramel turtle, one of their best sellers. He motions to another room, way in the back, where he keeps his caramel cutter. I ask what he calls that room. He looks at me sideways and says, “Oh, that room? We just call that The Back Room.”
If You Go
Restaurant: Eagle Family Candy Company
Address: 4590 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43214
What we ate (and loved): Buckeye, Eaglettes (their version of a turtle), and chocolate covered cherries (which were my personal favorite). They have over 20 varieties of chocolate, so there's something for every sweet tooth.
Insider tip: The shop is busiest during the candy-giving holidays: Valentines Day, Easter, and Christmas. But they’re open year round. If you’re not in Columbus, don’t worry, they ship all over the country.