What’s a vacation without a sweet treat? You may stick to your diet the rest of the year, but walking down a boardwalk just isn't the same without a few pieces of salt water taffy in your bag.
Bringing back a souvenir box of taffy is almost a given if you are heading to the beach—or down the shore, as they say in New Jersey, where salt water taffy got its start. Many boardwalk candy stores feature a machine going through the mesmerizing display of pulling and twisting the taffy. And though candy stores seem to collect at beach resorts like seagulls, there are a number of taffy stops farther inland as well. Here are some of the most interesting in the country:
1. & 2. FRALINGER'S AND JAMES' // ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY
Atlantic City is the mecca of salt water taffy, as it should be: The stuff was invented there. Fralinger’s and James’ are two venerable taffy establishments that were once rivals, but are now actually owned by the same company. Joseph Fralinger started selling taffy on the Atlantic City boardwalk in the 1880s and got the idea of selling gift boxes of the sweets as a seaside souvenir—Fralinger’s still sells a vintage-looking taffy box that says “Sea air and sunshine sealed in every box.” Very quickly, Enoch James came along and created a salt water taffy recipe that was slightly less sticky and easier to unwrap. For a quick visual identification of the two brands, Fralinger’s taffy is shaped like a small log, while James’ is shorter and wider, a shape “cut-to-fit-the-mouth,” as they advertise.
3. ROMAN CANDY // NEW ORLEANS
Roman Candy has been selling its candy for more than 100 years not from a storefront, but from a horse-drawn wagon (well, now the company uses a mule to pull that same wagon). Their primary fare is long sticks of taffy that are based on the original family recipe used by Angelina Napoli Cortese in the early 1900s. The taffy is made right in the wagon, and unlike taffy operations that offer dozens of flavors, Roman Candy has just three: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
4. DIAMOND HEAD TAFFY // HONOLULU
If you'd expect that taffy from a tropical paradise would come in tropical flavors, Diamond Head Taffy doesn't disappoint. Among their offerings are flavors like coconut, guava, mango, and li hing mui (dried plum). The company says its product is creamier than other taffies and includes egg whites and Hawaiian sea salt in the mix.
5. LLOYD'S OF AVALON // CATALINA ISLAND, CALIFORNIA
is one of the shops that places its hypnotic taffy machine front-and-center in its store window. And though the shop, which first opened in 1934, is a favorite for its selection of taffy and ice cream, it's also popular with the sightseeing crowd—a teenaged Norma Jeane (Baker) Dougherty worked there during her first marriage, a few years before she became Marilyn Monroe.
6. TAFFY TOWN // SALT LAKE CITY
It may not be by the ocean, but Salt Lake City certainly has both salt water and taffy. Taffy Town offers more than 70 flavors of taffy, including some out-of-the-ordinary ones like carrot cake, chicken and waffles, and maple bacon. The company was founded more than a century ago as the Glade Candy Company, but changed its name to Taffy Town “to reflect our total dedication to taffy excellence.”
7. ZENO'S BOARDWALK SWEET SHOP // DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
calls its product the World’s Most Famous Taffy and has been selling it on the boardwalk at Daytona Beach since 1948. They say their whipping technique creates a taffy that is light and smooth—and it must be popular, considering they make roughly 400,000 pounds of it a year. Zeno's selection is huge, with more than 100 flavors available (flavor #101 was pineapple upside-down cake).
8. YE OLDE PEPPER CANDY COMPANIE // SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS
The Pepper Candy Companie—the oldest candy company in the United States—traces its roots back to 1806 and a Mrs. Spencer who saved her destitute family by making candy. The company’s name comes not from an ingredient, but from a man named George W. Pepper, another candy maker in Salem who bought the business from Mrs. Spencer’s son. Although taffy was not one of the company’s original sweets, they do sell Wicked Awesome Salt Water Taffy. Their New England-oriented flavors include Cape Cod cranberry, maple syrup, and chocolate mousse.
9. DOLLE'S CANDYLAND // REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE
was founded in 1926 and moved to its present location on the boardwalk a year later. The company almost lost it all in a hurricane in 1962—the building was destroyed, and one of the only pieces of equipment left was the taffy machine, which dropped through the floor into the sand and had to be pulled out with a crane. It was successfully repaired and is still making taffy today. Dolle’s sells their sweets in a dozen regular flavors and another dozen summer flavors like root beer and piña colada.
10. SHRIVER'S // OCEAN CITY, NEW JERSEY
has been selling salt water taffy at the Jersey Shore since it opened on the boardwalk in Ocean City in 1898. The company sells more than 30 flavors of taffy at its store (which is housed in the oldest building on the boardwalk) and online. During their busy summer season, the store makes more than 2300 pounds (or 100,000 pieces) of taffy each day, with chocolate being far and away their most popular.
11. MARINI'S // SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA
was originally started in 1915 by Victor Marini as a popcorn stand on the boardwalk and soon expanded into salt water taffy and candy apples. Still family-owned and in the hands of its fourth generation of candy makers, Marini's taffy recipe has remained the same since the days Victor was making it. And they still wrap the candies using a cast iron machine bought in the 1920s. That's a lot of history for a bite-sized piece of taffy!
This piece originally ran in 2016.