Aunt Charlotte’s Candy
5 W. Maple Avenue
Merchantville, NJ 08109
I have to tell you, I’m late to the table when it comes to Aunt Charlotte’s Candies. My dad used to live in Clementon, NJ, and he was a diehard fan of Giambri’s Candies – a Clementon favorite. Every year for Easter and Christmas, he’d bundle us up and take us to Giambri’s, where he would choose some delicious confections to be given as gifts or eaten at home. It was as much a part of holiday tradition as buying a Christmas tree or decorating Easter Eggs.
At some point, my mother began touting the deliciousness that is Aunt Charlotte’s. I, however, was a Daddy’s girl, and while I didn’t doubt that Aunt Charlotte’s chocolates were every bit as delicious as Giambri’s, the tradition was in Clementon.
And then I went. I’m not sure why, except I attended a funeral Mass on Christmas Eve at the Church right down the street from Aunt Charlotte’s. A funeral on Christmas eve seemed to warrant an unscheduled stop for a box of chocolates, so in I went. And it was WONDERFUL! The smell is what you get first – chocolately goodness! But even as you are breathing in all of the delicious chocolate scents, your eyes are darting from one thing to the next. There are dolls and toys; seasonal decorations; candy in every shape and flavor; and every corner of this store is packed with old fashioned fabulous.
You can go upstairs, where a 1984 addition serves as the kitchen, and see the chocolates being made. On our most recent visit, which was this past weekend, the ladies that work there were escorting shoppers up the steps to show them the art of candy cane making. My girls not only loved getting to see how this was done, but they loved making their own candy canes! I browsed downstairs while Jim and the kids made their canes, and I am amazed every time I go in there at what I find. The selection is great, the freshness undeniable, and the flavors incredible.
The very best part of Aunt Charlotte’s? Without a doubt, it is the shop patriarch, Brooks Oakford, Jr. At close to 90 years old, this dapper dresser wanders his shop with a stack of fresh, crisp $1 bills. He plays games with young and old alike, challenging you to guess heads or tails to win a bill; or having you try to catch the dollar in mid-air. It’s a pretty safe giveaway for Mr. Oakford. Both of my girls were the gracious recipients of a dollar, which they promptly parlayed into $1.75 chocolate purchase. Not a bad return on his dollar!
We generally only visit Aunt Charlotte’s twice a year – at Christmas and Easter, but it has become a family tradition. Even Jim, who balked at having to go with me, enjoyed the candy cane making with the kids, and got a kick out of the wonderful woman who helped us in checking out (she gave us a delicious sample of the cherry cordials we were buying for someone else – you have to love that in a salesperson!).
Aunt Charlotte’s is not to be missed. In a day and age when fast is better and machines can crank out thousands of candy delights, you will fall in love with old fashioned and handmade.