History, sweetness meet in Old City

Ryan and Eric Berley show off Easter candies at their Old City shop. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
Ryan and Eric Berley show off Easter candies at their Old City shop. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 29, 2013

R YAN BERLEY, 36, and Eric Berley, 32, of Lansdowne and Swarthmore, respectively, own Shane Confectionery in Old City. The brothers, who also run nearby ice-cream parlor Franklin Fountain, acquired the oldest U.S. candy business in 2010 and spent 18 months restoring the faded store at 110 Market St. It reopened in December 2011. We spoke with Ryan.

Q: When you bought Shane, what did you decide to keep?

A: The curved-glass entry windows were broken and were restored. The interior: We kept everything pre-1940, including a 1910 cash register. We found eight original sconces but needed 14 and had six replicated. The original 1911 woodwork was stripped and repainted in colonial blue.

Q: What about original recipes?

A: We have all the recipes. We've tweaked the ingredients. We use Wilbur Chocolate. They're in Lititz and supply chocolatiers. The candies are still handmade using antique machinery.

Q: What sells best at Easter?

A: Traditionally, the buttercream Easter egg. These eggs, half-pound up to five pounds, are shaved out of solid buttercream, vanilla, peanut butter or coconut. We dip them in chocolate and then decorate with fancy icing. We probably sell 1,000 of those. Box chocolates are also big sellers, but this year there's something new, which is the clear toy (candy).

Q: Tell me about that.

A: This time of year they're generally hollow bunnies, some as tall as a foot, made by molding molten sugar. We've grown clear toy to the point where it's featured in Martha Stewart Living, and our online sales exploded. (It's in the April issue and online.)

Q: What's your favorite candy?

A: I love licorice and marzipan. The licorice, particularly from Europe, is sweet, salty and flavorful. We started infusing it with herbs like bay or thyme.

Q: What's the most interesting thing about the store?

A: The artistry, cabinet work and tradition is second to none in the United States.

Q: Who are your customers?

A: There are longtime locals and others from all over who buy from our website. We also sell clear toys to Terrain, which is Urban Outfitters' nursery shop.

Q: How many employees?

A: We have 30 employees but they split time between Shane's and the Fountain. We built a modern ice-cream kitchen in the back of Shane's that's shared with Fountain. In the winter the ice-cream folks make candy and in the summer they make ice cream. A lot of confectionaries made both candy and ice cream, so this model goes back 100 years.

Q: What were Shane's revenues in 2012?

A: I'm not prepared to say exactly but it was more than $100,000 and less than $500,000.

Q: How do you and Eric divide job responsibilities?

A: Eric handles the Fountain and ice-cream manufacturing. I developed a lot of the candies, particularly the clear toy and found the molds. We're the sweets guys.


" @MHinkelman


 

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