Aug 11, 2011

Visiting the Hercules Chocolate store in East Syracuse

In May John and I were in East Syracuse. It was another day in line of dreary, rainy days. Our business completed, we were trying to think of something to do that would brighten the day. I remembered that Hercules Candy Company was located in East Syracuse. They are frequently featured on TV making chocolate bunnies for Easter and ribbon candy for Christmas. It seemed like the perfect solution – brighten our day with chocolate.

Our TomTom showed that the “factory” was nearby. Actually, it not a factory but a typical neighborhood house on a quiet tree-lined street. The store is on the first floor displaying wonderful chocolate delights while the candy maker, Steve Andrianos, was working in the cellar. Hercules Candy Company has been in the family since 1901 – in the same spot.

In fact, we found the story of the Hercules Candy Company to be a ray of sunshine in the world of mass production and foreign imports. Steve Andrianos shared his family history with us. He is the third generation to run the business. As a teenager, his grandfather, Robert Andrianos, arrived in the late 1890s on Ellis Island from Greece. He found his way to Boston where he learned the art of candy making. Later he moved to East Syracuse where, with his two brothers, he opened a candy store. Eventually he brought out his brothers and during the depression moved the candy making to his home on 209 West Heman Street renaming it the Hercules Candy Company in honor of his father-in-law. It became a true family business with each of the seven children developing their own specialty. Steven’s father was good a making candy canes, hard candies, brittle and cream centers.

“I started making chocolate when I was 12. I was good at it so when I came home from school my father would leave me with the kettle and I would dip chocolate,” Steve explained. It was fascinating watching him while we chatted. I marveled at the fact that he kept dipping chocolate while we talked and there were no drip, no drizzles, just row upon row of beautiful chocolate covered orange creams. It is his ribbon candy that he takes the most pride in as it was a difficult technique to master. Steve is helped by his wife plus his children when they are home. They make everything themselves except the jellybeans. The best selling item is their chocolate-covered potato chips. There is something wonderful about chocolate with a hint of salt.

Steve went on to say, “We make candy the way it was made in the early 1900's - all by hand without any machines. We roast our own nuts on the premises and purchase our ingredients directly from the source from which they originate - not through a middle man, so that the freshness and quality of our candy speaks for itself.”

The Andrianos’ use the same equipment that his father and grandfather used including the big copper kettles and even the table fan on a nearby table was the one his father used. The early days of chocolate making are remembered in pictures on the wall. The business has expanded and is now year round and includes mail orders while still serving their loyal local customers. Steve and Terry’s three children are in college and hopefully the family tradition will continue.