If your parents or grandparents grew up in Philadelphia, chances are they’ve made more than one visit to Shane Confectionery. Crafting classic hand-made sweets for nearly a century, three generations of the Shane family carried the torch to supply artisanal confections to the city. In fact, the space occupied by Shane has housed confectioners as far back as 1863.
When the last of the Shane candy-making dynasty retired in 2010, brothers Eric and Ryan Berley—who own the soda shop Franklin Fountain down the street—decided to take up the mantle and continue the tradition themselves. After nearly two years of renovations, restoring everything from the floors and the display cases to the original confection-making equipment, Shane re-opened its doors in late 2011 with Rising Star Artisan Davina Soondrum at the helm of candy-making.
Soondrum, who ran the pastry program at Franklin and now manages both shops, tackled testing and standardizing all the recipes, many of which had been passed along on scrap paper and the backs of envelopes. The process, she says, was “like going through the secrets of a madman.” In addition to making buttercreams with the original 1910 mixer, she’s been busy recreating all the caramels, brittles, barks, and toy candies Shane’s clientele has enjoyed for generations.
Soondrum’s work is grounded in traditions of yesteryear, but she plays to the palate of the modern sweets lover. So “with some new tricks and treats swirled with a little imagination,” she created the Whirly Berley Bar. Named in honor of the Berley brothers, this re-imagination of a classic candy was born from Soondrum’s deep-seated, Wonka-esque nostalgia for old-timey sweets. One bite transports you back in time. Worlds away from the industrial products of Pennsylvania’s better-known chocolate producer, this candy bar is a rare find—a truly artisanal confection.
Soondrum balances soft chocolate torrone and buttery dark chocolate caramel with a very modern measure of Celtic sea salt. After a sprinkling of earthy Mast Brother’s cocoa nibs, the whole thing is enrobed in a layer of Pennsylvania’s own Wilbur chocolate. Wilbur rivals Shane in years and marketed chocolate “Buds” long before that other confectionery giant patented its “Kisses.” “Working with Wilbur is an absolute treat,” says Soondrum of the local product.
The Whirley Berley Bar has rocketed to Shane’s best-seller status and will be featured at the 2013 Philadelphia Rising Stars Gala this February. “It’s not your grandfather’s Milky Way—I tell you what!” says Soondrum.
That candy bar plated dessert craze sweeping through restaurants the last few years? The Whirly Berley Bar is just the type of nostalgic treat, with roots deep in our collective memory, capable of inspiring such revivals and updates.