Tuesday, April 4, 2006

The Saga of the Valomilk - Two of Five

The Acquisition

I’ve searched high and low in Los Angeles and have not found them. There are a few places that sell them online, but you have to buy a case of 24 (except for Old Time Candy) and I kept rationalizing that I had plenty of candy to try. The thing about Valomilks is although they’re made with care and of fine ingredients in the freaking dead center of the country, they’re rarely found over the Rockies for the simple reason that they don’t travel well.

When I went to Pittsburgh in February, I was invited to visit Candy Favorites (also known as McKeesport Candy Co.) just southeast of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River. The fact that the largest internet candy store is based in McKeesport was incredibly fortuitous. I was already planning a visit to my sister’s, in Mechanicsburg, and McKeesport was pretty much on my way.

Well, the thing about Pittsburgh is that it’s wrapped in some sort of a time warping field. My husband jokes that the announcement on the airplane when you land is “The local time is 1958.” He’s not far off, really. For a big city it still has much of its old charm and architecture but has managed to reinvent itself economically since the loss of the steel industry. The geography itself has had its hand in shaping the community as well, by creating barriers of all sorts that segregate areas and isolate the whole Three Rivers area. There is less “urban sprawl” here just by virtue of the Allegheny Mountains hemming the city and surrounding communities in.

I’ve always found Pittsburgh and the area to be exceptionally confusing to navigate, which is due to the hills and gulleys, rivers and historic highways that thread among them. It doesn’t help that the area has never embraced signage. After being lost for nearly an hour and fifteen minutes (on a drive that should have taken 25 minutes), I nearly threw in the towel, but I realized I was just as likely to find my way to the candy company as I was to the turnpike so I persevered. I tossed the map aside and just tried to figure it out as best I could using the sun and the river as my guide.

An hour and a half late, I pulled up to downtown McKeesport. There I met Jon Prince, third generation in the candy biz (just as Russ Sifer of Valomilk is the third generation, see all this stuff it connected!). He showed me around his operation (another story ... maybe later this month) which is positively steeped in history (really, check out their website, the old candy ads are a hoot). At the end, in addition to urging me to take anything I liked from his huge warehouse, he presented me with a box of 24 Valomilks.

image

It’s the worst thing to happen to me in years. Here I was, traveling, without the benefit of my lovely candy photo studio, no one I was visiting had any interest in them (fools!) and worse, Valomilks were notoriously bad travelers. But there they were, in their gorgeous little box that also opened up to become a display for the buggers and I vowed to save every one of them.

Tomorrow’s episode: The Achilles Heel of the Valomilk

POSTED BY Cybele AT 5:38 pm Tracker Pixel for Entry     ValomilkFun StuffNews

Comments
  1. My roommate grew up right outside of Pittsburgh.. I can’t believe she hasn’t suggested I visit McKeesport.  In fact, I kind of find it fundamentally wrong that she hasn’t mentioned it to me. 

    If you’re out this way again, there’s this candy store in western MD where they have all sorts of different candies I rarely see elsewhere available in bulk for really cheap.  I don’t think it’s very far from Pittsburgh.

    Comment by g on 4/05/06 at 2:09 am #
  2. Cybele's avatar

    g - I wouldn’t suggest that McKeesport actually warrants a visit on its own, unless you’re passing through. Candy Favorites is wholesale and via the internet ... so not much to see from the outside.

    I’ll be in PA for a longer visit this summer (my sister is getting married) so maybe I’ll need a little diversion to Maryland! (But I’ll need more info on where the store is…)

    Comment by Cybele on 4/05/06 at 5:26 am #
  3. My husband grew up in McKeesport! I’ll be there in September and I’ll be sure to look up this candy store. Do they have a store front or is it only online?

    Comment by fightin mad mary on 4/05/06 at 10:48 am #
  4. Cybele's avatar

    Sorry F’MMary, I think that Candy Favorites is internet and wholesale only. However, their website is pretty fun with lots of history stuff to explore including a timeline of candy bars.

    Comment by Cybele on 4/05/06 at 12:19 pm #
  5. There’s no way that the review is going to be worth this.  You HAVE given other candies a 10 or a 1 without this to-do.

    Oh, and my Russell Stover boycott has begun.  They ceased production at their plant here last week.  Three shifts to closed in 7 months…what could’ve happened?  Distribution warehouse now…

    Comment by Dave on 4/05/06 at 1:43 pm #
  6. Cybele's avatar

    Dave - I heard about the RS shutdown ... very sad and rather shocking. I wonder if they’re moving production overseas or just slowly condensing as a company. I’ve never been the biggest fan of their chocolates but of course I think the loss of such a big company in a community that size has to be a huge blow.

    As for the big to-do about the Valomilk ... eh, I felt like writing a longer piece and I do have a box of 24 of them, which gave me more liberties than usual. Most of it’s not really about the candy itself, but the lengths that I go to. I tried to keep the whole thing separate from the regular reviews for those who don’t wanna follow along.

    Comment by Cybele on 4/05/06 at 1:51 pm #
  7. Since I’m in Maryland, I’d love to hear more about this great candy place that ‘g’ spoke of.  More specifically, where is it, specifically?

    Comment by Grommie on 4/06/06 at 1:04 am #
  8. I looked it up… it’s called Candyland, USA.  There are 3 locations out in Western MD.  I’ve only been to the one in Oakland, but it looks like they have ones in Cumberland and Grantsville too.  It’s further from Pittsburgh than I thought (a little over 2 hours to the Grantsville location).  We go there when we’re out at Deep Creek Lake.

    Basically, half the store is like a farmer’s market and the other half is candy. Most of the candy is in bulk so you can create your own Halloween bag of sorts.  I am blanking now on a lot of what I’ve seen there, but I know they have Sugar Daddies, Bit o’ Honey, Mallow Cups, various Spree, SweeTarts, Tootsie, and Charms products. All of the bulk stuff is wrapped (so not like bins of jellybeans or anything).  They also have some good filled chocolates and nut clusters, novelty candies, and sugar free candy.  I’ve filled a bag (like the ones in the produce department) and it came to maybe $6.  It’s really just fun because you can assemble your own perfect combination and even pick just the flavors you prefer and still not go broke.

    Comment by g on 4/06/06 at 2:09 am #
  9. FYI—- they sell these at Cracker Barrel Restaurants.

    Comment by dicknubian on 7/18/07 at 11:16 am #
  10. Valomilk can also be purchased at Cracker Barrel Restaurants.

    Comment by Debbie Reece on 9/29/07 at 5:07 pm #
  11. Several years ago I stopped by the Candyland stand in Grantsville on my way to Deep Creek Lake where I purchased a few pounds of Lemon and Assorted other flavors of Napoleons. Is it possible to purchase these by mail order?

    Many thanks,

    Mildred Cannon

    Comment by Mildred Cannon on 11/22/10 at 3:03 pm #

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