Leap Of Faith

Family Makes Sweet Treats In Busti

Jeremy Gruber makes candy in a huge copper pot. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

When Jeremy and Liz Gruber purchased Peterson’s Candies in Busti, they were taking a leap of faith, especially with Jeremy leaving his job as an accountant to jump into candy-making.

The couple purchased the business that started in the 1930s as Peterson’s Corn Crib Candies at Third and Pine streets in downtown Jamestown. The current location was opened later as a seasonal second store and referred to as the summer cottage. The business was sold in 1976 to Winston Frankson, who had been a 30-year employee of Betty Dixon Candies. It was sold again to Frankson’s son, Steve and his wife Chris, in the early nineties. Chris Frankson lost her husband in April 2018 after a short illness.

“Winston came back to teach Chris how to cook when she lost her husband,” Jeremy said. “A lot of knowledge left when Steve died. There were things Chris hadn’t helped him with. Win has been instrumental. I don’t know what we would have done without him.”

Frankson has stayed on through the transition of the sale, working four days per week, and has been teaching Liz the art of chocolate molding.

“Chris is a chocolate molding expert and knows the customers by name and what they like,” Liz said.

Dinosaurs, sports, crosses, cars, animals and more varieties of molded chocolate can be found at Peterson's Candies. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

Her husband didn’t know how tricky candy making could be and thinks his ignorance was beneficial and has learned rather quickly.

“Recipes is only a quarter of what it takes,” Jeremy stated. “Mixing creams is a feel and if you mix while it is too hot, it gets gummy. If it is too cool, it crystalizes.”

Their peanut butter, vanilla buttercream and coconut filled eggs are expected to be the best seller for Easter. They also have Easter gifts baskets available with an advance order. Aside from holiday time, their best sellers are peanut butter bark, sponge candy and beetles, also known as a pecan frogs or turtles. There are many new candies, including peanut butter s’mores.

“We can’t keep chocolate-covered Swedish fish in stock,” says the candy maker about the popular confection. “Many people request chocolate-covered marshmallows.”

Nearly every chocolate item is available in milk or dark chocolate, including the chocolate-covered creams. There are twenty bark varieties, such as dark-orange chocolate, a milk, white and dark mixture with pretzel pieces, dark chocolate espresso and a kitchen sink variety with coconut, peanuts, pretzels and raisins, which also comes in an assorted gift box.

Peterson's Candy is located at 743 Busti-Sugar Grove Road in Busti. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

They have many non-chocolate candies such as cinnamon hearts, misty mints, old-fashioned suckers, gummis and candy canes. Several varieties of nuts are available including Jordan almonds, Spanish peanuts, mixed nuts and warm cashews. Reception wafers are popular for weddings and dinners.

Some customers have orders shipped to family and friends, a service that is available year-round.

The Grubers have a lot of ideas for bringing in new items to mix with the ageless candies for which Peterson’s are known. They are constantly looking for new items and candy that appeals to kids.

They are combining vintage with modern technology and plan to purchase a 3-D printer for making custom molds for weddings, chocolate business cards and whatever else customers want.

“I’ve been in the process of curating our molds that include antique metal molds, flat molds and hollow molds,” Liz said. “Hollow candy can only be made in hollow molds.”

Ready for Easter. Submitted photo

She has purchased 500 new molds, including princess, magic and camping molds and will continue to use their old molds, while slowly introducing the new ones.

“Our oldest metal molds are high quality molds.”

They have started a Facebook page and are in the process of interviewing web designers.

Bonnie Spencer stopped in for the first time since moving to Glens Falls 34 years ago. Her daughter, Alicia Schunk, wondered why her mother had never brought her by on their many trips to visit family still living in this area.

Spencer quoted her father, James Thompson saying “you don’t just eat the chocolate, you enjoy it.”

Jackie Vullo of Jamestown has been a customer for 10 years. Sam, her husband, usually likes the beetles.

“We can always count on our grandson, Chris Zickgraf, to buy those for Easter, Christmas and birthdays,” SamVullo said.

“Our other grandson buys the fruit slices,” Jackie Vullo said. “He loves them.”

Jonah, the new owners’ son, a Kindergartener at Robert H. Jackson Elementary School, is looking forward to his father having more time after Easter when he is going to make a playroom at the business location.

The five-year old likes owning a candy store. His favorite candies are jelly beans and gummi bears.

“I used to save the clear gummi bears for Grandma, but I like them now,” said the red head.

Jonah’s mom is the District Librarian for Fredonia Central School District.

The couple have shared five recipes from their families. The recipe for Dad’s Chili came from Jeremy’s father, Darrell. Grandma’s Sweet Potato Salad came from his grandmother on his mother’s side, although his father’s side sometimes requests his mother bring the dish to their family functions.

“The chili always reminds me of my dad.”

“For Easy Chicken and Dumplings, I have tried using boneless, skinless chicken, but rotisserie chicken is much more tender and already cooked. This knocks out so much preparation time,” Liz said.

Peterson’s Candies is located just 10 minutes from downtown Jamestown at 743 Busti-Sugar Grove Road, Jamestown (Busti). Look for the red and white building flanked with candy canes. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 to 4 .m. on Sunday, and can be reached at 487-1595.

Grandma’s Sweet Potato Salad

6 to 8 potatoes

™ c boiling water

¢ c sugar

1 ¢ c name brand, creamy, white salad dressing

2 tsp vinegar

¢ tsp salt

™ tsp celery salt

2 hard-boiled eggs

¢ c onion, chopped

Boil potatoes and cool. Cut into chunks and set aside. Mix water and sugar until dissolved. Add salad dressing, vinegar, salt and celery salt. Mix dressing well. Peel and slice eggs and add to potatoes. Add onion. Stir in dressing. Chill and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Dad’s Chili

1 to 2 lbs ground beef and ground sausage combo

2 16-oz cans tomatoes

1 lb can kidney beans, drained

1 lb can pork and beans

1 onion, chopped

™ c vinegar

™ c brown sugar

2 tsp chili powder

¢ tsp pepper

Dash hot sauce

Salt to taste

Break up and brown ground meat. Drain. Put all ingredients into crockpot and cook on slow 8 to 10 hours. Serve with bread or crackers.

Broccoli Salad

8 slices bacon

2 heads fresh broccoli, chopped

1 ¢ c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

¢ large red onion, chopped

™ c red wine vinegar

1/8 c white sugar

2 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

ª c mayonnaise

1 tsp lemon juice

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, and crumble. In a large bowl, combine broccoli, cheese, bacon and onion. Prepare the dressing in a small bowl by whisking together the red wine vinegar, sugar, pepper, salt, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Combine dressing with salad. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tetrazzini

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

2 T melted butter

1-.7 oz package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix

2 T butter

1 small onion, sliced and separated into rings

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-10.75 oz can condensed cream of chicken soup

¢ c chicken broth

1-8 oz package cream cheese, softened

Place chicken in slow cooker. Top with melted butter. Sprinkle with dressing mix. Cover, and cook on High for 3 hours. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic. Cook and stir until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Mix in soup, chicken broth, and cream cheese. Pour mixture over the cooked chicken in the slow cooker. Cover, and continue to cook on low until chicken in fork tender and the sauce has thickened, about 1 additional hour.

Easy Chicken and Dumplings

1 deli rotisserie chicken

2 cans refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

1 can cream of chicken soup

32 oz chicken stock

1 ¢ c milk

¢ tsp poultry seasoning

¢ tsp black pepper

¢ stick butter

™ c flour

§c milk

Remove chicken from the bones and dice. Set chicken aside. Cut biscuits into ¢-inch nuggets. (The best way is to roll each biscuit between your hands forming a long tube and then cut the tube into ¢-inch nuggets.) Set biscuit pieces on a cookie sheet, keeping them separated. In a large pot, combine chicken stock, cream of chicken soup and milk. Whisk until soup is dissolved. Add poultry seasoning and black pepper. Bring to a full boil and then add butter. Reduce heat to medium, being sure liquid continues to simmer, but not boil. When butter has melted, start dropping the biscuit pieces into boiling liquid. Stir occasionally reducing heat to medium or low. Once all biscuits have been added to the liquid, boil lightly while preparing thickener. To make a thickener, combine well ™ cup of flour and § cup of milk. Slowly add thickener to liquid and biscuits, stirring constantly. This will slightly thicken the liquid. When liquid begins to thicken, add diced chicken. Let this mixture cook, covered, for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve when biscuits are no longer doughy but firm. Makes 6 servings.