Whether you were raised on Cookie Dough Fudge or visit annually for the free samples, one thing is certain – Callie’s is synonymous with candy here in the Pocono Mountains. Operating a small business is no easy feat, but 67 years later, Callie’s Candy Kitchen continues to churn out tasty treats while helping families make lifelong memories. No one knows the business better than Gretchen Callie Reisenwitz, President of Callie’s Candy Kitchen and daughter of the late Harry and Carol Callie, founders of Callie’s Candy Kitchen. With her father’s knack for business and her mother’s eye for decorating, Gretchen is keeping the Callie tradition alive and well.Q.
For those who don’t know, how did Callie’s get its start?
In 1952, my parents, Harry and Carol, were newlyweds living in Bangor, PA. My dad loved the idea of starting a business and wanted to do something that would make people happy. What makes people happier than candy!? They decided to open a candy store and luncheonette on Broadway in Bangor. After three kids and 20 years in business, my parents relocated to Mountainhome to capitalize on Pocono tourism.
How did your parents learn so much about candy making?
In 1969, my dad attended Retail Confectioners International’s (RCI) Gus Pulakos Candy School in Erie, PA. This education, combined with RCI’s close-knit network, taught him a great deal about the art of candy making. Aside from that, it took a lot of trial-and-error and hard work to get to where we are today.
Is there a “secret” to being successful in this business?
My dad, a proud Italian, always said, “You don’t change the gravy. You change the shape of the macaroni.” When it came to chocolate, he truly believed this. We use the same chocolate in all of our candy; we just change the “macaroni.” From chocolate pops shaped like popular cartoon characters to chocolate covered pretzels, we create candy that everyone can enjoy. Over the years, we’ve gotten especially inventive with our chocolate covered items. Cream cheese, potato chips, even Swedish Fish – you name it, we’ll chocolate cover it! We apply this same rule of thumb to our pretzels.
Callie’s Pretzel Factory has been in business since 1985. What led to that new venture?
My husband, Mark, and I were ready to run a business of our own. Dad suggested pretzels, a Pennsylvanian favorite. Just like the candy store, we purchased a house and converted it into a factory. We started making simple, soft pretzels and, little by little, expanded our offerings. Today, Mark, runs the show at the Pretzel Factory and is always inventing something new. The “Everything” Pretzel is one of our best sellers and is available in both soft and hard form. We have everything from pretzel dogs and pizza pretzels to chocolate covered popcorn and pretzel ice cream sandwiches!
With SO much to choose from, what is a must-try for first-time visitors?
I think it goes without saying that our chocolate covered strawberries are irresistible. Peanut Butter Krispie Bark is one of our best selling items and a favorite among peanut butter lovers. Try a free sample – I guarantee you’ll want a box of your own! Pocono Crunch is an item unique to Callie’s, and the combination of rice krispies, butterscotch, and crushed cashews is inexplicable but truly delicious. Our crushed peanut clusters and chocolate covered Jordan crackers are Callie’s staples. We actually own the patent on the Jordan cracker. If you can’t decide, choose your favorite flavor (peanut butter, caramel, nuts, cookies) and find it in candy form!
Callie’s surely belongs on everyone’s list of places to visit in the Poconos. What sets your stores apart from others in the area?
Callie’s Candy Kitchen and Callie’s Pretzel Factory are both so much more than just places to fulfill your daily calorie count. In 2015, we opened the Callie’s Candy Museum: The History of Callie’s Candy Kitchen. The museum is filled with artifacts from the start of our candy making days along with instructional videos and photos taken over the years. I built the museum to honor my parents, and I think it serves as a testament to their hard work and love of the candy business and the community. At the Pretzel Factory, the bakery is surrounded by glass windows, so visitors can see pretzels being made every day. If you’re visiting with children, ask a member of our team for a piece of dough so they can practice the art of pretzel twisting! We welcome group visits and love the opportunity to teach others about our craft. Oh, and did we mention both stores have free samples?
The holiday season is rapidly approaching. What can customers expect this time of year?
Let me start by saying, we LOVE the holidays here at Callie’s! I especially enjoy decorating and transform the store for every holiday and season. I also decorate both storefronts to create fun photo opportunities for visitors and their families. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can see how we make candy canes on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the Pretzel Factory. In addition to seasonal treats on display in the store, we also complete a lot of special orders during the holidays. Need a platter of candy to bring to Thanksgiving dinner? Done. Want to thank your clients for their support all year long? We have a basket, tin, or gift box for that. We’re here to help bring smiles to all our your favorite people’s faces.
With so many changes taking place in the Poconos, how has Callie’s managed to stay true to its roots?
After all of these years, we pride ourselves on being a family owned and operated business. While “the face” of Callie’s may no longer be with us, his recipes and values remain. Our team is built of dedicated individuals who learned the tricks of the trade from Mr. Callie himself, and they even gave him a few ideas along the way!
What is your favorite part about owning a business in the Poconos?
My parents believed in giving back to the community in any way they could to make sure it was a great place for us to live and for others to visit. Mark and I grew up here, and we love seeing and being a part of all of the good things that continue to happen in our town. From Concert in the Park to the annual Halloween Parade, our small community is full of people with big hearts. We do our best to help keep our area one of the nicest places in the Poconos.
By now, I think everyone is wondering…what is YOUR favorite candy?
One of my all-time favorite candies is our Peanut Rolled Caramel. We cover a caramel “egg” in milk chocolate then roll it in crushed peanuts. It’s as good as it sounds and is only available at Easter!
Callie’s Candy Kitchen and Callie’s Pretzel Factory are both open seven days a week from 10am – 5pm. (Please note, they are closed for the month of January.) Follow along on Facebook and Instagram for mouthwatering photos and updates on what’s new and delicious. Need your Callie’s fix before your next visit? Shop online at www.calliescandy.com. And remember, chocolate makes everything better!