Lucille’s Own Make Candies Still Sweet at 90

Locations in Brant Beach and Manahawkin
Jul 26, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

It’s safe to say the idiomatic sweet tooth runs in the Eismann family. Sugar, in return, has sustained the family for generations: This year, Lucille’s Own Make Candies, begun by Lucille and Carl Eismann, celebrates 90 years.

Granddaughter Janice Eismann, 52, was manning one of the two local Lucille’s – Oh Fudge, in Brant Beach – last Thursday afternoon, as customers drifted in regularly to purchase confections of all shapes and colors. Couples, kids with parents, kids with grandparents and others came on foot and by car.

Janice let one youngster try a piece of taffy; he picked blueberry.

To a man choosing chocolates she explained the linguistics of nonpareil, which means “not equal” in French. Years ago, she pointed out, the chocolate discs sprinkled with tiny candy balls were made with a funnel and stick, so they were never the same size.

“There’s a little science to chocolate making as well,” she added. Caramels and jellies, for example, are deposited into cornstarch after cooking to achieve a softer center.

Janice, who is on the regional candy association board, often travels to perform demonstrations of chocolate tempering by hand, which she was taught by her dad, and which involves testing a dab of chocolate above the upper lip.

“As crazy as it sounds, I really love what I do,” said Janice. “I’m one of those lucky people.”

The Eismanns’ love and luck of candy-making began in Philadelphia, Pa., with a midwestern preamble.

Carl Eismann, the son of German immigrants, was a traveling car parts salesman who fell in love with the farmer’s daughter in Iowa, and wrote his parents back in Philly that he and new bride Lucille planned to open a sweets shop in the city. “‘Rent me a storefront,’ he told his parents. ‘We’re going into the candy business,’” as Janice told the tale.

Carl and Lucille opened Lucille’s at Torresdale and Longshore in the Tacony section of Philadelphia in 1927. Despite no prior experience in the commerce of candy, the duo was successful.

After two decades, the couple, now with a young son, Larry, decided to move out of the city. “They liked fishing, so when they sold the property in Philly they bought property in Manahawkin,” along Bay Avenue, Janice explained.

In 1965, the Eismanns opened Oh Fudge in Brant Beach, situated between 41st and 42nd streets along the cutout road parallel to Long Beach Boulevard, and emphasized by a 32-foot pink-and-white-taffy stick next to the shop. The original marble table used by Lucille to make candy in Philly sits in one of the store’s front windows, behind which melters, in the back room, are utilized for molded chocolates, including Easter bunnies and Thanksgiving turkeys.

Larry graduated from Tuckerton High School and attended Drexel University before returning home to take over the family business. He married classmate Barbara “Ginger” Garrison, and in 1974, Larry and Ginger bought land along Route 72 and built the Lucille’s that still stands there today, with a 5,000-square-foot-kitchen and a plate-glass window that allows customers to watch the candy-making live.

The couple had three children – Janice, Karl and Nathanial – all of whom reside within a mile of the Manahawkin shop. Larry passed away in June, at age 83, while Ginger still lives within the close radius of the Lucille’s on Route 72.

Karl and Nathanial run the Lucille’s enterprise along with Janice, and Karl’s son, Ben Bishop, makes the fudge and chocolate. Nathanial’s daughters, Audrey and Katherine, and Janice’s daughter, Marina Millia, help with family business as well.

“The backbone (of the business) is the manufacturing and distributing,” said Janice. The family attends a lot of trade shows, and their products appear in numerous mom and pop stores and catalogs. The sugar-free dark chocolate nonpareil, for example, is sold in the Vermont Country Store catalog.

Lucille’s has used the same chocolate manufacturer since the 1970s. It was called Wilbur Chocolate, in Lititz, Pa., and is now owned by Cargill, which owns four out of five chocolate manufacturing companies in the country.

The family makes 45,000 pounds of chocolate every year, much of it by contract.

Janice guesses that vanilla buttercream is among the first candies her grandparents made all those years ago. When in a candy store, she said, “the rule of thumb is, try the vanilla buttercream, and if you like the flavoring, it’s a good indication you’ll like the other products.”

The current shops’ most popular candies include chocolate and vanilla fudge, and chocolate and vanilla taffy – “Most people are purists,” said Janice – as well as dark vanilla buttercream, sea salt caramels and almond buttercrunch from the chocolate case, and swedish fish and sour watermelon slices from among the gummies.

Over time, preferences for certain sweets have ebbed. Sugar-free candies were more popular in the ’80s and ’90s, Janice pointed out, and chocolate-covered dates, prunes and apricots have completely fallen out of fashion, as have cream eggs and molasses chews.

Sea salt caramels, meanwhile, are fairly new, and a fast favorite of customers.

A recent addition are eggnog creams dusted with nutmeg. “We all eat with our eyes,” Janice remarked in reference to the decorative dusting.

Among the fudge is a concoction of her dad’s: South of the Border, with a brown sugar base, rum flavoring, coconut, brazil nuts and orange peel.

Janice told customer Barry Abramson, of Levittown, Pa., the ingredients, as he decided on treats for his wife and himself. “I saw Oh Fudge and I had to stop,” he explained. “I’ve been craving fudge. And I’m not down the shore all the time,” so it was necessary to stock up, of course, at one of the area’s oldest, and sweetest, establishments.

Call Lucille’s in Manahawkin at 609-597-7300, or stop by the store, at 156 Route 72 East. Call Oh Fudge at 609-494-3700, or visit at 4105 Long Beach Blvd. in Brant Beach.

— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

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