A hush fills the interior of 110 Market Street in Philadelphia. Little can be heard except the razory wind reverberating the curved glass display windows of the store front (creating a low-sung banshee note) and the now-and-then creak of the wide pine floorboards. The hush carries with it a certain sanctity, like the oaken innards of a chapel. It contains sounds that the eardrum cannot register: the sound of candy clerks stepping on the rungs of wheeled ladders to fetch boxes of chocolates from the topmost store shelves, the sound of jelly beans filling a brass scale, the sound of crinkled paper as ladies neatly wrap candy packages, the sound of the sharp metallic peal of the cash register’s bell clanging off of marble countertops and hand-carved Chippendale-style cabinetry. It carries the sound of peanuts and almonds being crushed by rolling pins on the upper floor, the brisk snap of shells sounding like rainfall on flagstone. It transmits the burbling hiss of chocolate stewing in copper pots over sapphire spears of gasfire jetted from wrought iron fudge cauldrons. Within the quiet the ear of the tranquil soul can detect the boastful call of master confectioners instructing new staff how to make candy treats with an unyielding eye and a cool, steady hand. The hush encloses the simmering signatures of candymaking dynasties from eras bygone. It sustains the steady pulsation of life and lives lived; it keeps the inaudible noise of the sweetness of dreams crystallizing into reality like electric crackle.
The fixtures of the store themselves seem to whisper their essence, the stories they have upheld. The punch bowl lights intersperse along the pressed-tin walls and disclose a porridge-colored incandescence throughout the shop. The decorated tin of the ceiling and walls seems to laugh, tickled by the memory of the flickering gaslight of hung chandeliers which lash a champagne tone onto the fleur-de-lis motif that moves across the walls like a pulse rate.
Phantom figures emerge from the stillness, slowly coming into form like developing photographs. The sight of grandmotherly women half-submerging strawberries into vats of molten chocolate with the pinch of wrinkled fingers appears, the berries drip somewhat as their chocolate coats begin to cool and harden. Apparitions of customers in the doorway impose themselves; they are bundled in winter coats, eager to peer at the hand-painted candy canes arranged in the mirror-bottomed display cases.
In the candy kitchen, the spectral image of jobbers forms as they unload sacks of sugar and cocoa off of the rope-pulled freight elevator. The workers duck into the back entranceway to unpile the horse-drawn wagon of top-rate ingredients from the choicest suppliers.
Since 1863 the floorboards of 110 Market Street have absorbed the hurried footfall of confectioners hard at work. The walls have drunk in the mingled aromas of boiling fruit essences, of chocolates cooling on thick marble slabs, of the slowly-turning churn of cooking butter-cream fondant. The aging lumber of the building has housed the efforts of furrow-browed confectioners to bring a familiar sweetness or the exoticism of distant lands to the palettes of their loyal clientele. This space has held the stances of dreamers who carry on the craft of culinary romantics that has crumbled into mediocrity, parody, or forgery outside of its walls. The first confectioner on this site was a gentleman by the name of Samuel Herring, who also had been operating a confectionery supplies wholesale business next door at 112 Market since the 1850s. The Herring family were well noted and sought after for their confectionery mastery; several Herrings operated on this very block going all the way back to the 1840s. Samuel Herring had employed another confectioner by the name of Daniel S. Dengler, a stout and good hearted man of German stock with a large mouth, a slight double chin and a dark complexion. Daniel Dengler was an able worker. Samuel’s kin, one Benjamin W. Herring, had been fighting in the War between the States, and had fought on the Union side to uphold the cohesion of our Republic. Benjamin returned from the War after its conclusion in 1865, and took over the business from Samuel, who then operated elsewhere on the block. Benjamin W. Herring saw in Dengler his accreted skill of the craft, as well as a man with strong business acumen. Benjamin Herring and Daniel Dengler partnered, and sold confectionery goods wholesale from the site of 110 Market, including shelled almonds and peanuts, figs, glucose, dates, cocoanuts, chocolate liquer, and a host of other items.
Benjamin Herring eventually passed, and Dengler assumed the ownership of the business, along with his son, Frank. As years passed, Dengler grew wiser, wider, and grayer. In 1899, He decided to move locations, this time moving to 102 Chestnut on the opposite side of the block, where he would continue to sell confectioners’ goods wholesale, as well as fireworks. The building of 110 was sold to a man named William T. Wescott, a man whose face bore Leporid characteristics– he wore a small and neatly groomed moustache and was a staunch outdoorsman. He had also operated a small chocolate factory on Spring Garden Street where, for some time, he was his only employee.
Wescott came from a family of glassblowers, and in his earlier days entertained that profession, so whether it was in the wilds of a Canadian forest waiting for large game prey, or over the white-hot glow of molten sand being piped into glass from a kiln, or over a vat for bubbling chocolate, W.T. Wescott had steely reserve, composure, and patience. Wescott had his name painted across the curved glass window of the store front in gold-glinted lettering. At the Forth of July he hung a large thirteen-star flag from the fire escape of the building and decked the store with patriotic bunting, and at Easter time he set hand-woven Easter baskets in the display window. Tragically, Wescott’s Spring Garden location burned down. In 1910, with the insurance money, as well as additional net profit he had gained from the 110 Market location, Wescott decided that he would move and expand, where he would build a magnificent and impressive new chocolate factory in Camden, New Jersey. And who would he sell to? An enterprising young man named Edward R. Shane.
Mr. Shane was a gentleman with hair the color of cavendish tobacco, whose speech was slick and articulated and spilled out along with his pipesmoke in the trailing yarns of a road-travelled salesman. He had a quick wit and had a sharp mind which could crunch numbers and assess cost estimates in the blink of his blue eyes. His father operated a confectionery on Callowhill Street in Philadelphia in 1861, but he enlisted in the Union Army the following year where he was clad in blue overcoat in Company B of the 16th Infantry of West Virginia, using his carpentry skills to help fortify the city of his stovepipe-hatted and thick-bearded Commander in Chief. His mother kept a grocery on Ninth Street (three blocks from Ford’s Theater, where ill-fated President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated) during his boyhood, where she sold jams and preserves, figs, oranges, and horehound candy. Edward grew up in this household, well accustomed to the chiming ring of the cash register and the interplay of aromas from cooking jams in the store. In 1904 Edward’s father passed, the same year that he went into business as a merchandising broker for a canned fruit business, partnering with a woman named Caroline Brower (like himself, she was of Irish stock) who had marble green eyes and a robin song laugh. Caroline was the wife of Trevone Heights Brower, a confectioner who made their product in his home kitchen on Clearfield Avenue, preserving fruits grown in Monmouth County, New Jersey. Edward had been to their kitchen, where he leaned against the wallpaper as the Brower’s child, Clifford, toddled about his feet. For peculiar reasons, Trevone operated in culinary circles under the pseudonym “Auntie Brower” a fictitious spinster and temperance advocate. While cooking jams, Trevone would belt out temperance anthems in a haggard voice, letting the higher notes register in his nasal cavity.
Ultimately, over time, Trevone wanted less and less to go through a broker for his business dealings, and the business dissolved in 1910. Within the year, Edward would enter the retail confectionery industry by buying William Wescott’s site at 110 Market Street. Edward was thirty-one years of age when he started the business, and he had a one-year-old son by his wife, Estelle. Edward named the child after himself. Edward had inherited some of the workforce from Mr. Wescott, including a saleslady with a high collar and floor-length dress, Mary Connerty. Edward placed new cabinetry in the store and new marble countertops, issuing instructions to the bristly-bearded workforce with precision and an particularly keen eye for the quality of the woodwork (Edward’s father was a carpenter and he had run his workshop out of Edward’s childhood home). The company he went through to install the cabinetry was Reinel Brothers and Salmon, who were out of Baltimore. One of the working New Englanders left behind a blue pouch of chewing tobacco, which remained underneath of the marble for the passage of a century.
In those days, Edward would cook his chocolates over a coal fire. Business was good from the outset — there were over 20,000 people who passed by his shop a day, waiting to catch the ferry over the Delaware to Camden (the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, originally called the Delaware River Bridge, wasn’t completed until the year 1927, which made ferry boat the only means of transportation to and from New Jersey). The site on the 100 block of Market Street was, therefore, prime real estate for attracting window-shoppers. For regular customers, Edward used to have chocolates packaged and waiting by the front counter, where they paid, thanked him, and then left to catch the five-o’-nine to their homes in New Jersey. My great grandfather, Anthony Neuberger, was among them. The world changed quickly under Edward’s reign–he witnessed two World Wars which forced him to ration sugar both times; women got the vote in 1920, and jazz could be heard on the store radio, emanating from the tooting horns of Big Bands.
Edward R. Shane gained a loyal clientele over the years, and his name became synonymous with high quality candy. Customers especially loved his rich-tasting homemade butter-creams, which were churned on a six-foot-wide piece of machinery that weighed two and a half metric tons (it is still in good working order, and still in use to this very day). Other customers remember his homemade marshmallows with especial fondness, and still others, such as my grandfather remember his hand-made chocolates with lemon fillings (in his boyhood, my grandfather used to eat them with his sister on an outspread blanket after his father, a World War I veteran, brought them home as a treat). Decades passed, and soon it was the year 1950. Edward R. Shane’s son, also Edward, was now a grown man with a science education from Penn State University. Edward R. grew gray, then salt white hair and wore a habitual smile. He treated everyone with whom he came across with benevolence and kindness. Edward Jr. purchased the business from his father. He oversaw ownership and maintenance of the store for another thirty years. In his upkeep of the dynasty, Edward Jr. was known to wave and smile to the neighborhood boys whom he witnessed playing tag-football in the street, and Edward Jr. would paint the cabinetry year after year with a monk-like calm. Edward Jr. wore thickly-set glasses, and he spoke in a gentle voice sueded by cigarette smoke and cold coffee (Edward Jr. used to joke that the only things that he was permitted to do in his establishment was to ‘make coffee and sign the paychecks.’) As decades progressed, Edward saw the world change slowly. The Cold War was underway, and the editorial sections of Edward’s hometown newspaper of Collingswood, New Jersey, filled with suspicion and paranoia about the Red Menace. Rock and Roll came into fashion as radio disc jockey Alan Freed had termed it from the speakers of the store radio, the sound evolved in the late sixties with the introduction of psychedelia into the popular culture (Edward’s day-working employees grew out their hair, and some with former careers at sea covered their arms with tattoos). In 1969 mankind landed on the same moon that Edward’s great-grandfather, Timothy, had stared at as he sailed for the New World of America.
The neighborhood outside also changed for the worse throughout the sixties and seventies, and less people frequented the store, but while the ledger indicated less and less sales, the Shane Candy dynasty was able to keep on. There was also construction outside for a subway stop at Second and Market, and for years menacing bulldozers and backhoes tore up the pavement, but the operators of the machinery always stopped to let customers squeeze by the mayhem which looked like a war zone so that they could purchase their candies. Always, year after year, customers would line up at Christmastime and Easter Tide in order to purchase from Shane Candies pastry chef Mabel Brown was known to always have crafted the best candies, and the Shane name was always known to be trustworthy and reliable even as the world was changing drastically around them. Before long, the year 1980 rolled about, and Edward Jr. was in the twilight of his reign. He had lived to see the information age, when green-blinking computers were in vogue elsewhere (the Shane ledger was still figured out by hand, however, and the cash register was the same one that his father had installed back in 1910). Edward’s son, Barry, was next in line to take the reign, and Edward trained him for three years how to make each candy.
While other candy companies had submitted to the easier path of using pre-made formulas or manufacturing candies with robot technology, Edward Shane insisted that the candies be “hand-crafted”; each candy was carefully inspected, rolled, or enrobed with chocolate. In the 1983, Barry bought the business from his father and operated the store for his own reign of thirty years. Again, the neighborhood had changed, and it wasn’t always easy, but Barry was determined to make sure that the store subsisted. Again, year after year, crowds would form and line down the block at Christmastime and Easter Tide — at least some things were always reliable in the world of chaos.
Towards the end of his thirty year reign, Barry would get to meet some interesting neighbors down the block at 116 Market. They were two brothers, Ryan and Eric Berley, who were the children of antiquarians. These gentlemen had a anchor-deep appreciation for history, and had, for some time, admired the Shane Candy store and its almost century-long legacy. Elder brother Ryan had asked Barry sometime in the beginning of the new millennium what he had thought of the idea of an old fashioned soda fountain being at the end of the block; Barry seemed to approve of the idea, and, with the blessing of the dynastic confectioner, the Berley brothers opened up The Franklin Fountain, an old-time ice cream saloon that made all of their ice creams from period recipes. They outfitted the entire store using only antique furnishings and apparatuses, and had the soda jerks don period attire.
The Berley brothers themselves seemed to have antique souls, for they ate, slept and thought through a lens of historic reference frames and all things of bygone eras. As Barry approached the age of his own retirement, he saw that these two enterprising gentlemen would be the perfect fit for him to pass the candymaking torch along to. So, after ninety-nine years of 110 Market Street operating under the Shane family, Barry Shane bequeathed ownership of the business to the Berley Brothers, who decided to keep the Shane name in order to commemorate the great candymaking family, and to preserve a rich and well-earned heritage of Philadelphia tradition
This brings us to present day, where the Berleys have been working tirelessly and, according to legendary Philadelphia food critic Rick Nichols, “irrepressibly,” to get the site and candymaking equipment of 110 Market Street back into the shining shape that it had been in in the prime of its existence. The linoleum has been taken off of the flooring, and the original pinewood floors have once again been able to breath. The Chippendale-style cabinetry has been given a new shade of paint. Craftsman Michael McCann has detailed the seashell motif with a steady hand and eyes filled with expertise, using the same color scheme that can be found a few scant blocks away in Independence Hall, where our Republic was founded. Master craftsmen have worked to restore the original skylight; to varnish the floors, to clean the fire-mixers and the fudge cauldrons and hand-fused copper kettles; to install new lighting; to clean the inches-thick marble counter tops, to get back into repair the hand-cranked elevator from the nineteenth century (which is rope-pulled and the oldest in the city); to re-fit all of the windows, including the stained glass atop the threshold of the door front, to re-install the curved glass display windows which had been destroyed by a falling ladder in the middle nineteen-seventies; to move the Berleys’ collection of over two-hundred cast iron candy molds, a good percentage of which is from the estate of the late Philadelphia confectioner Harry Young; to clean and re-motorize the butter-cream and fondant churners; to get the antique nickel-plated cash register into working condition; and, most personally, for me to adopt the old store cat, Cocoa.
So, you see, many confectioners have worked at the site of 110 Market Street, many had learned their expertise the hard way over a passage of decades, and many have witnessed through these store windows and over international broadcast the turning world change. And many will, for years to come. We like to think that we are breathing new life into an the organism of a candymaking shop, a creature which has been parallel to, and participant in, America’s great history. This store has survived for a century and a half, and has seen the modern world come into its fruition. With its blossoming we hope to partake, and to maintain the rich heritage of the shop in making sure that the tastes of the confections which we produce will still be known to the palette of new-comers, and that the returning old clientele whose memories hinge on these time-tested recipes will not be disappointed. The future is ours to unfold. Thus, we make a solemn promise to uphold and continue the values which have sustained and made great this space throughout its long passage of years. Since we are inheritors of a rich confectionery tradition, and a line who honorably and ably worked on this site with nighest skill and quality, we wish to divulge to you, in the form of an oath, our promise to engage in the craft with equal focus and excellence:
The value of hand crafted candy, and in remaining true to the methods, hard labor, and quality of our predecessors and their products will always be the core column of our self-integrity. We invite you to savor our homespun palace of ever-sweet dreams, where you may walk amidst culinary magicians and the taste lovingly produced by the fruit of their efforts.