Sweet on the Candy Factory
By Karen M. Alley
We were captivated by the beautiful antique glass front cases filled with all kinds of chocolate delights, barrels of taffy and hard candy you can grab by the handful, and walls lined with even more types of candy—everything from old-fashioned horehound sticks to the newest Sweet Tart concoction in a tube like toothpaste.
It’s the perfect place to find that special gift for Valentine’s Day. Be assured, you won’t come out empty handed.
Keeping History Alive
The Candy Factory got its start as a small side venture for the owners of Piedmont Candy Company. In 1978, candy maker Robert Ebelein began selling his signature Red Bird peppermints, along with homemade fudge and peanut brittle, in a storefront adjacent to his factory. Customers were delighted with the turn-of-the-century décor and the wonderful treats, and the business grew to the point Robert and his wife Frances had to look for a bigger location. They moved into the renovated Lexington Hardware building on Main Street in 1979. Since that time the store has been remodeled three times to add space.
The Ebeleins sold Piedmont Candy Company in 1987, but The Candy Factory is still owned by Robert’s three daughters, Jeanne Leonard, Beth Dean and Leigh Foster, and the Piedmont’s own Red Bird peppermint proudly sits on the shelves next to the other candies that come from near and far. “When you walk into our store, we want you to be taken back in time to the old general stores with barrels of penny candy,” says Leonard. “We carry a lot of the old-fashioned candy that you can’t find just anywhere anymore.”
More than Just Candy
In keeping with the tradition started by her parents, Jeanne has plenty of antiques scattered about the store — from metal soft drink signs decorating the walls to antique rockers customers are welcome to purchase. Many of the antiques serve a double role and are used to hold the piles of toys that fill the store, which are about as hard for kids to pass up as the candy. Old favorites such as Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls sit among piles of puzzles, games, cars and tractors. And of course, Hasbro’s Candyland has a prominent spot on these shelves!
While the barrels full of candy are a little pricier than their penny candy days, it’s still affordable for kids to drop in after school and buy whatever they can with their leftover lunch money. In addition to the regular visitors, The Candy Factory plays host to elementary kids out for a tour on field trips and groups from tour buses coming through downtown Lexington. The kids from Davidson Academy are regular visitors, as they come in for a walk through the store and a chance to make a few highly anticipated purchases after visiting the local nursing home each month.
Leonard will happily entertain groups of any size with her family’s story of making candy in the Piedmont. Pictures of her family at the Piedmont Candy Factory help illustrate the story, starting with her grandfather Ed Ebelein, who began his career as a candy maker in 1890 and opened Piedmont Candy Factory in Lexington in the 1930s.
Peppermint Pig, Lexington and Barbecue
Of course, candy isn’t the only thing the town of Lexington is known for. Its annual barbecue festival draws crowds of people downtown each year, and Uptown Lexington, Inc., has coordinated three years of Pigs in the City art initiatives to pay tribute to the city’s proud heritage. From May to October, fiberglass pigs in all sorts of poses and costumes populate the streets of Lexington. Puffy the Peppermint Pig made her debut during the Pigs in the City 2004, and now adorns the window of The Candy Factory.
Part of the charm of a visit to The Candy Factory is that you feel transported back in time not just in the store, but as you walk down Main Street. The downtown is still a vibrant shopping district, with antique shops, hardware stores and clothing stores. And if you haven’t pigged out on candy after a trip to The Candy Factory, there are plenty of places to eat within walking distance — from Japanese food to pizza.
The Candy Factory
15 N. Main Street
Lexington, NC 27292
Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Friday, 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The Candy Factory is well-prepared for every holiday, including Valentine’s Day. Gifts can be packed to order in boxes of all sizes and shapes, from traditional red hearts to cellophane bags, and carried out of the store or shipped to wherever you need them.