PLAINS TWP. — Maybe a chocolate-scented candle, or a cocoa potpourri. “We could keep a crock pot of melted chocolate going!” Mary Ann Stopay said with a laugh.
After spending most of their waking moments making candy, Mary Ann and her husband, John, concede that, yes, they really miss the smell of chocolate.
But make no mistake, they are out of the business for good, they insist, even though the family name, Jon L. Stopay, remains on the Plains Township store on River Street.
The continuation of the Stopay name might be causing a bit of confusion, the couple said, adding they keep getting calls about the business they sold last year.
“After 48 years,” John, 75, said, “we just felt it was time to get out.”
“The business” was started part-time by John’s father, “Papa Jon,” after he got out of the U.S. Marines in 1946 and used the GI Bill to learn the craft. “He was so talented artistically,” Mary Ann recalled. “Candy making is an art; I think that’s why he got into it”
In fact, when the elder Stopay designed the logo for the company using his name in cursive script, he dropped the “h” to become “Jon” because “he liked the fluidity of it,” she added.
Papa Jon exercised his art in every step of candy making, the two noted, from pouring the chocolate manually into molds. Tip to do-it-yourselfers: If you want a hollow chocolate, watch until the outer edge crusts up, then pour the still-melted part out to squeezing ornate borders, flowers and other adornments through an icing bag.
The craftsman yearned to keep the “hand” in “handcrafted” so much that he automated jobs reluctantly.
When his son bought a machine to mark the candy, dad scowled. “He looked at me and said ‘You’re never going to use it!’ ” John recounted. “So it stayed in the box for about a year.”
John put the machine into service when his father went away for a few days, and upon his return, Papa Jon was so pleased with the results “he said, ‘Buy another one.’ ”
They sold the business last year — after recovering from the 2011 flood that covered their old store to the roof and forced them to relocate — to Mark and Doug Young, two non-candy makers — at least, until now — who agreed to preserve both the family name and the secret recipes.
The secret is to “keep it all natural,” Mary Ann, 70, said when asked to spill the beans, “and add a little TLC.”
And while they helped out through the winter, they’ve been in full retirement mode since April.
Scent of success
Spending this summer without the scent of chocolate 11 hours a day, seven days a week was nothing new, John said.
They declined multiple opportunities to expand the business to the point that would require year-round work, and always had summers off thanks to the high candy demand from September through Easter.
But this will be their first winter full of idle time. What are they planning to do?
John, a longtime prankster, according to his wife, sat back and smiled.
“We’ll probably drive each other crazy.”