When we think of Salem, Massachusetts we tend to think of two things: The Salem Witch Trials and Halloween. Well, I’m here to tell you about the sweet shops in Salem, the sweeter side. Salem has three very fun sweet shops to explore. They are all unique and have their own special treats to offer. If you like all things sweet these shops are for you.
Table of Contents
Sweet Shops in Salem
- Harbor Sweets
- Ye Olde Candy Company
- Kakawa Chocolate House
First Sweet Shop in Salem – Harbor Sweets
Harbor Sweets started out as the vision of one man’s quest to make the ‘best’ piece of candy. Benneville Strohecker is the genius behind Harbor Sweets and their famous Sweet Sloops. The company moved to its current location adjacent to harbor’s edge in Salem in 1973 and has been making sweet treats ever since.
Ben was a visionary when it came to chocolate as well as his business. Ben believed in “The Golden Rule” which has served the company well. He started offering flexible work schedules and job sharing for his employees. His vision in the kitchen never wavered and the chocolates show that creative side of Ben. The company has grown over the past 40+ years to include five different lines of chocolate.
Even now after more than 40+ years in business Harbor Sweets continues to make their chocolates the way they did when Ben first started the company. They use copper kettles and wooden paddles along with locally sourced ingredients. I guess you don’t mess with success!
Harbor Sweet brand which is the original chocolate line offers you sweet sloops as well as sand dollars. The other varieties are Marblehead mints, Harbor Lights, Friendship Sweets, and a few others. Here is the full line of Harbor Sweets chocolates.
As you look through all the different lines of chocolate that Harbor Sweets offers you will notice the nautical theme throughout their lines. They are after all on the harbor in Salem, Massachusetts so it’s very befitting.
Another very popular line of theirs is the Dark Horse Chocolates. Started as a college thesis project for Phyllis LeBlanc, who now owns and runs the company, this line of chocolate has been a best seller ever since.
The Salt & Ayre line of chocolates is a nod to the spice trading routes that used to be part of Salem’s vibrant harbor. These chocolates have flavors such as Thai ginger, Chai, caramel, and Himalayan sea salt. These are certainly a favorite of mine.
The newest line of chocolates is the Gather line with wildflower honey. This line is really an ode to all things in nature and the plight of our honey bee and the other pollinators. Harbor Sweets donates 2.5% of the proceeds from this line to the Pollinator Project. You too can help our bee friends. Find out what you can do at the Pollinator Project.
Harbor Sweets also now carries Cocoa Santé an all-natural and organic hot chocolate with unique flavors. You can choose between Nor’Easter, Parisien, Aztec, Kashmir Spice, and Mocha. With all these flavors I’m sure everyone in your family will have their own favorite. In our family, Ainsley likes the Nor’Easter and Parisien, Evelyn prefers the Parisien, and Clint the Aztec. Although I like them all the Mocha is my favorite.
Chocolate Tour of Harbor Sweets
Harbor Sweets also gives tours of their facility. You just need to call ahead for a reservation. They offer their tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 am. If you are in the area look this store up, you won’t be disappointed.
Second Sweet Shop in Salem – Ye Olde Pepper Companie
The Ye Olde Pepper Companie is the oldest candy company in America!
Originally the George W Pepper Companie, the name was changed when George Burkinshaw bought the company in the early part of the 20th century. George Burkinshaw was a very smart man and at the same time, he bought the recipes for the two most popular candies of the time. In other words, solidified the continuation of these two candies.
Nowadays the 4th generation of Burkinshaw runs the company and keeps the legacy of the famous ‘Salem Gibralters” and the “Black Jacks” alive.
The Salem Gibralters
The Salem Gibralters come in either lemon or peppermint flavor. This wonderful candy is still made the way the original confectioner, Mary Spencer, made it. Mary Spencer’s story is quite unique in that she lost everything in a shipwreck on her voyage from England to the New World. She arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, and quickly accepted help from a neighbor who knew she was a candy maker. From the donated barrel of sugar, the neighbor gave Mrs. Spencer came the famous Salem Gibralters.
To make Gibralters you boil the sugar with water and cream of tartar then pour onto a metal table to work with. This is when the flavor is added, either lemon or peppermint. Using what looks like a spackle knife, you turn the edges over onto itself as the candy cools. When the candy has cooled enough it is taken to the ‘hook’. This is when the fun starts. The candy pulling fun. The candy is stretched until the right consistency. A flavor stripe can be added and then the candy is cut into pieces and packaged the way it’s always been from the beginning.
The Black Jacks
The other famous candy the Ye Olde Pepper Company has is the Black Jacks. This is a black stick candy made of molasses which gives the candy a distinct taste. This candy was developed by John Pepper as the male counterpart to what they thought of as the ‘female’ candy, the Gibralter. The Black Jacks was the first commercially sold candy in America.
Along with their two famous candies the Ye Olde Pepper Companie sells a huge variety of sugary sweets from hard candies to chocolates. I personally Iove the chocolate-covered star pretzels. But you shouldn’t stop with just the pretzels they also offer truffles, turtles, and filled chocolates.
The variety of fudge the Ye Olde Pepper Companie makes it awesome. My husband and my favorites are the Walnut Penuche, it’s to die for, really you must try it. They also sell bark, brittle, caramel corn, and cranberry corn which is new along with saltwater taffy. This shop certainly provides that olde time nostalgic feel when you see all these candies and chocolates. Take advantage and stock up while you’re there.
The Ye Olde Pepper Companie is rightfully named especially with all the olde fashion candies they offer. They have root beer barrels, another favorite of mine, to Sassafras Slugs, to black licorice bites to Mary Janes. I have to tell you a little story about the Mary Jane candy. It was originally made by the Charles N. Miller Company. It was named after an aunt Mary in the family, my husbands family. Yes, my husband’s family’s claim to fame is being the original manufacturer of Mary Jane Candies. The family is so glad to have the tradition kept alive and still sold today, especially right here in Massachusetts where it was first made.
For more nostalgia check out my post of Picturesque Covered Bridges of Vermont.
Third Sweet Shop in Salem – Kakawa Chocolate House
The Kakawa Chocolate House is a very unique sweet shop in Salem. When we first discovered Kakawa Chocolate House my husband and I both said “Mexican Chocolate?” We were right. You might not know but the word Kakawa comes from the Olmec who were the first major civilization in Mexico. The word means cocoa or chocolate so the name is very befitting the company. They are after all a drinking chocolate company.
The company has two stores in New Mexico where it originated and now has branched out to Salem, Massachusetts. Don’t think of their drinking chocolate as hot chocolate, it’s not. It’s more of an enchanted elixir to sip and savor rather than a hot chocolate that you glug.
Their “mission is to re-introduce you to chocolate” through history and anthropology. They use historic recipes dating back all the way to 1000BC for some of their elixirs. They offer flavors like Rose Almond, Zapoteca, Jeffersonian, Havana Rum and Pomegranate just to name a few.
Of course, they offer more than just their fabulous elixirs but when you visit you should try a flight of drinking chocolates. This gives you a variety of four or eight different drinking chocolates to try at once. We did a flight of 4 and were happy with our selection. We chose Chili, Coconut Hibiscus, Tzul, and Kakawa’s American. You can also add whipped cream for a small extra fee. I think the whipped cream adds a nice creaminess to the drinking chocolate.
Kakawa’s chocolates, caramels, and truffles are made in small batches with local seasonal ingredients. Their selection changes with the seasons. This allows you to go in often to savor all the new confections they are making.
The shop in Salem Mass also offers ice cream. Organic house-made locally sourced delicious ice cream as well as milkshakes and sorbet.
Therefore, if you are looking for a unique chocolate experience Kakawa Chocolate House is the place to go.
Pin For Later
As you can see all three of these sweet shops in Salem are unique in their own way. They all have a place of honor within the town to thrive and prosper. I hope the next time you visit Massachusetts that you visit all three of the sweet shops in Salem. Savor their delicious treats and judge for yourself which candy you like the best.
Do you have a favorite candy? Do you need to travel far to enjoy it? or does a local shop carry it? Please leave a comment below and tell me all about them.