Looking to sate your sweet tooth? The cure for what ails you is right in Old City. There, on Market Street (which, back in 1863, was called “the High Street”) sits a modest sweets shop called Shane Confectionery. But things are far from ordinary inside this establishment. Born in Philadelphia during the time of the Civil War, this candy store is still doing things the old way, using vintage scales, an old-fashioned cash register, and techniques for pouring hard candy that have been held secret for hundreds of years.
The building on Market Street was a center for commerce that really boomed in the wake of the war. The confectionery existed as nothing more than an emporium for “Wholesale Sweets,” which seasonally added fireworks and other dry goods to the inventory. At this time, goodies sold over the counter included “shelled almonds and peanuts, figs, glucose, dates, cocoanuts, chocolate liquor, and a host of other items.” The Shane family bought the business in 1910. To showcase their new acquisition, they hired a notable architectural firm to add a gorgeous marble counter, glass showcases and bespoke cabinets to show off their wares, along with a showstopping stained-glass transom window that is still extant today.
As Shane Confectionery moved with the rest of society through the twentieth century, it became a neighborhood landmark. Families would line up around the block before Easter and Christmas for the store’s distinct “clear toy candy,” a poured-and-set specialty candy molded in fanciful shapes like bunnies and ducks. As much a work of art as a sweet treat, these delicacies were the store’s hallmark. The candy is still made today with 100-year-old metal molds that were purchased at auction when one of the city’s other legacy confectioneries closed.
Today, Shane Confectionery is about so much more than buying treats. It hosts annual events, such as “The Sweet Hereafter” tours for Halloween. The entire operation is now outfitted with a Chocolate Cafe, which serves luscious drinking chocolates from around the world, and an ice cream shop where scoops are hand-crafted based on old recipes.
If you are interested in the sweet side of Center City history, you can visit Shane Confectionery seven days a week. The shop opens at 11am daily.