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True Treats: Spring, Sugar and Sweets Extravaganza to be held Saturday

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | May 7, 2021

Maryann Fisher, left, answers questions of visitors to True Treats Candy in Harpers Ferry during their visit on Saturday. Larry and Crystal Coale, of Aberdeen, Md. and Samantha Wilson from Waynesboro, Pa. were enjoying learning about the history of candy making. Toni Milbourne

HARPERS FERRY — True Treats Historic Candy welcomed one and all for a Spring, Sugar and Sweets Extravaganza on Saturday. The shop, located in historic Harpers Ferry, is the only research-based candy store in the United States, according to spokeswoman Maryann Fisher.

As Fisher offered a tour of the shop Saturday, she shared history of various candies and showed the natural ingredients that are used to make them including more than 30 different varieties of plants and trees such as citrus and even coffee.

In business for 11 years, True Treats Historic Candy is a leading supplier of candies across the country. Owned by Susan Benjamin, the shop was founded by researchers who studied the history and stories of candy recipes and have created a niche in an historical market.

Benjamin is the author of 10 books, was a journalist, a college professor and a communications strategist, before devoting her time to researching the history of sugars and sweets.

The fruits of her labors can be found in the store, which is organized chronologically so that visitors can traverse through the decades to see exactly what those in the past developed not only as sweets, but as medicine.

“Sugar was used for medicinal purposes over the years,” Fisher said, adding many other ingredients were also originally used for medicine.

In addition, the shop has multiple varieties of tea, Benjamin said.

“We have approximately 40 teas on average,” Benjamin said, although the availability can vary. “People just don’t know the history of candy. Many people think our shop is retro candy, but it’s research-based. The origin of candy was medicine, and medicine came from botanicals.”

According to Fisher, many botanicals were combined to create new varieties.

“For example, spearmint and watermint were combined to make peppermint,” Fisher said.

Another example of historical interest Fisher shared, was that the first candy made and sold commercially in the United States was by a woman named Mary Spencer. Spencer created a candy called Gibraltars. Spencer sold the candies via horse and buggy throughout the area in which she lived and used the opportunity to also help slaves reach their freedom.

A press release issued prior to Saturday’s event explained that True Treats is known for “blending the importance of historic candy, sugar, spice and everything nice into a one-of-a-kind empire.”

The business has received notoriety in many fashions including through features on NPR, the Food Network and the History Channel. The store was recently featured on Jeopardy where the question asked was “True Treats in W.V. sells candy from many eras, including peanut brittle from this 19th century horticulturist’s recipe.” The question is posted in the shop now although the answer is not shared with it.

True Treats, located at 144 High Street, is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information can be found at truetreatscandy.com.