Other than the few years spent in the Air Force, Candy Dippold had lived in Marienstadt all his life. He had been lucky enough to serve his country during a peaceful period but, despite that, he came back to Pennsylvania convinced that it was the center of the universe and there was no reason to stray farther afield. He married Eunice Woelfel, who was, technically speaking, his third cousin, and took over the running of his family’s grocery store on Church Street across from St. Walburga’s Parochial School. For decades Dippold’s Grocery had been one of the busiest stores in Marienstadt and, even after the big Bi-Lo market moved into a shopping center out on the highway, Dippold’s continued to thrive. Candy accomplished this by making it his mission to carry as many of the locally produced food products as he could.
Due no doubt to the long-standing tradition of Bavarian thriftiness, Marienstadt was blessed with an impressive variety of unique and exceptional businesses. Kneidel’s Meat Market was one of the oldest in the county and Andy, the proprietor, continued to produce the sausages, scrapple, sultz, and more from recipes that his grandfather brought from the Old Country. Mulligan Wolfe, who owned Stooges Pigs and Kraut, made his own sauerkraut from cabbages he raised himself and cured bacon, jerky, and ham from his own pigs. Lola Eckert’s Strudel Shop was one of the prime gathering spots downtown and her strudels, pies, and pastries were responsible for more than a few locals taking up jogging. And Bearded Lady Hometown Treats, run by Stella Loeffler and Lettie Miller, was becoming increasingly popular for the relishes, preserves, jams and sauces they made from their home-grown produce. Candy was proud to carry as many of their products as they could spare. Plus there was his candy counter—the candy counter that was responsible for him being known as Candy and not his given name, Gunther.
The candy counter was four yards long, covered in glass, and featured every delicious morsel he could find to keep in stock. There had been a time when all the goodies were a penny but those days were long gone. However, because the store was across the street from a grade school, the candy counter was always busy regardless of the prices.
“Candy? Are you back there?”
Candy was in the combination warehouse/workshop behind the store when he heard the bell over the door jingle and a woman call to him. “Coming,” he answered. He put down the photographs he’d been sorting through and went out into the cheerful shop. “Mandy! Did you bring me more goodies.”
Standing at the counter carrying a large cardboard box was Mandy Herzing, a short, sturdy woman with curly blond hair that always made him think of Cupids. She wore jeans and a blue sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up to her elbows and was, as usual, smiling her pretty smile.
“I did. I have some more of the pint jugs of our syrup and a couple boxes of the maple sugar candy you asked for.” She shoved the box up onto the counter. Mandy and her husband Bob owned Herzing’s Maple Sugar House, a large maple syrup bush and sugar shack. They harvested sap from their sugar bush every spring and boiled it down into syrup that they sold and made into a variety of candies, butters, and creams.
“Great.” Candy lifted out a box of maple sugar candies molded to look like little boys and girls in traditional Bavarian costumes. “I can’t keep these in stock and it isn’t just the kids that like them. Ezra Winter can’t come in the store without buying a couple.”
“Really? I didn’t know he liked them.” Mandy grinned. Ezra, who was well into his eighties, was generally acknowledged as a typical Marienstadt character. “Ezra’s father and my granddad were brothers. I’ll have to take him some. Bob said to tell you we’re getting some new molds so when those candies are ready, I’ll bring some by for you to see.”
“Good. What kind of molds?”
“Bob’s been wanting to do something with a local theme and he found molds that are shaped like elk. Then Father Nick came by—talk about someone who loves our candy—and he suggested we might look for some Belsnickel molds for the holidays.” She laughed. “Everyone always has ideas for us, that’s for sure.”
Candy grinned. “I think those are great suggestions. Father Nick has Sister Hilda at the convent making Belsnickel ornaments in the ceramic shop, too.”
Mandy nodded. “I saw them. They’re very cute.” She leaned closer. “Did you hear that the Fleddermans have put the family farm on the market. It’s been just sitting there ever since Aaron died a few years back. I guess I always knew this day would come but I sure hate to see it.”
“That’s the land right across the highway from you?”
“Yes. Bob said he’s going to talk to Harry Lenze at the real estate office to see how much is involved. Bob thinks there are quite a few acres. We don’t want the whole thing but if the land is going to be divided up, Bob said he wouldn’t mind getting a few acres close to us.”
“No kidding. What does he want them for?” Candy took the invoice from Mandy’s box and reached under the counter for his checkbook.
“He’s been talking to Stella Loeffler about starting an apiary.”
“Yes, but we want them far enough away from our house. We have three little ones and they play outside all the time. It might be better to keep the bees across the highway.” She took a deep breath and sighed. “I’m just worried about Aaron’s barn. I sure would hate for that to be torn down.”
Candy frowned, trying to picture the barn. “I don’t remember…”
“Candy! I can’t believe you forgot about it.” Mandy put her hands on her hips and gave him a mock scowl. “It’s the last Mail Pouch Tobacco barn in Elk County!”
Candy’s eyes widened. “Oh, that can’t be torn down. We have to save it.”
To be continued.....