Easter is just days away. For many of us, that means sweet treats galore! So where should you go to find your fix? Well, there are so many candy and chocolate shops on the North Shore, they can make your head spin. Take a breath and follow our steps to some of the sweetest spots around.
Salem’s Ye Olde Pepper Companie offers something extra special. Maker of the famous Salem Gibralters and Black Jacks (the first stick candy produced and sold commercially in America), it started with the Spencer and Pepper families in 1806; and its history is as rich as its chocolates. Boasting a large and far-reaching customer base—one that includes Oprah, who favors their turtles—Ye Olde Pepper is an institution, yet it is still devoted to time-tested methods of making candy the old-fashioned way—with muscle and craft. 122 Derby St., Salem, 978-689-3636
Salem is also home to Harbor Sweets. Founded in 1973 by Ben Strohecker—candy man turned author and illustrator of children’s books—who, upon opening its doors, challenged himself to make “the best piece of candy in the world.” Arguably, he did—the famous sailboat-shaped sloop beloved by so many. 85 Leavitt St., Salem, 978-745-7648 Touting the health benefits associated with dark chocolate, Dante’s Confections in Billerica sells the finest-tasting antioxidants around. Each batch is handcrafted with the finest attention to detail, ensuring the highest quality flavor. Pop into the shop for a medicinal sample or buy a steady supply online. 199 Boston Rd., North Billerica, 978-262-2242
Since 1913, Willey’s Candy Shop in Salisbury has been a family-owned business known for its cream-filled chocolates, each piece of which is hand-dipped and initialed—a personal touch that has been a trademark for three generations. And the Penuche fudge! Made from a covetable family recipe, it has become the house specialty and remains a customer favorite. Their salt-water taffy is a salute to nearby Salisbury Beach, and the taffy puller and wrapper are “hardworking relics” of days ago. 4 Broadway, Salisbury, 978-465-5541
Gloucester is proud of its Turtle Alley Chocolates (another location recently opened in Salem). Using only the finest grades of chocolate, real butter, fresh cream, imported nuts and spices, they handcraft small batches for the freshest sweet taste imaginable. Smoked hot pepper barks, white chocolate blueberry cashew turtles, and chocolate covered ginger are just a few of the delectables that greet saucer eyes. Their signature “Umbra” combines coconut, caramel, and roasted almonds—a tiny piece of heaven. 42 Rogers St., Gloucester, 978-281-4000; 177 Essex St., Salem, 978-740-0660
And, of course, no list of North Shore sweet spots would be complete without naming the nationally recognized Putnam Pantry in Danvers. The iconic red house opened its doors as a candy shop in 1951, after serving for 10 generations as a shoemaking factory. Many childhood memories hold sway for long-standing customers who file in for fine chocolate but are still drawn to the colorful wall of candy for kids. Large simmering kettles bubble with white, milk, and dark chocolates, which ultimately turn into the 300 different varieties of candy offered daily. 255 Newbury St., Danvers, 978-774-2383