By Emily Lentz
It is more than a century old and is known by people all over Kentuckiana. Nestled in the historic district of Jeffersonville, Ind., Schimpff’s Confectionery has held a piece of our history since 1858.
Carried on through four generations of the Schimpff family, it has become a sweet surrender of homemade chocolate and hard candies.
Gustav Schimpff Sr., was the first to establish Schimpff’s in Louisville, Ky., and by 1891, Gustav Sr., and his son, Gustav Schimpff Jr., decided to come to Jeffersonville, Ind., bringing their candy along with them.
With the constant success of the family-owned business, it has just celebrated its 112th birthday. Since 1990, Warren Schimpff, grandson of Gustav Jr., and his wife, Jill, have been the owners of this hidden treasure.
“We are a living museum,” Jill said.
When the couple first took over the business, they were living in Claremont, Calif., just outside of Los Angeles. Working for the local water company, Warren would travel back to Jeffersonville occasionally to make candy and oversee the business. Back in Claremont, Jill was teaching English at Pitzer College as a second language.
Only thinking to own Schimpff’s for a year, they found themselves going way beyond.
“We said we would try it for a year and now here we are 12 years later,” Jill said.
Jill and Warren have now resided back in Jeffersonville, living right above the historic business, which also has been lived in from past generations.
“You don’t hear of that often anymore,” Warren replied, “in fact, Business First in Louisville did an article on people who live about their place of business and we were in the article.”
Television stations, such as PBS in Indianapolis and local news channels have visited Schimpff’s to share a piece of history with the public.
“ The best thing about this place, is that we still are using old recipes since 1858 and the old chocolate dipping tools, but most of all we are using a stove that is more than 80 years old and a cooling table that is 112 years old,” Jill explained.
Suffering three major floods, the store still remains as it was when it first opened. As you walk in, you feel you are living in the past. Candy fills the store in giant mayonnaise jars from the 1930’s, along with collectibles from antique candy stores. An old-fashioned soda fountain sits to your right and is still used today, serving children and adults a variety of fountain drinks. One that is most popular now, is the “Harry Potter,” made of orange sherbert, lime juice and soda.
In the back, is a small deli, carrying traditional foods with a light touch.
“We try to keep our foods traditional,” Jill explains, “but our food is homemade and they are the type people remember from the past like your pimento and benedictine cheese sandwiches, with a variety of soups, and will even still bake our own hams and pies.”
Next door is the latest addition, just two years old, of a candy museum.
“Back when we lived in California, we would collect American candy memorabilia,” Warren explains.
“So now after 25 years of collecting, we have things from all over the country.”
To the left, sits an old-fashioned candy machine that still works to this day. Glass taking up most of the room, you will find everything from old Barbie dolls to candy dispensers and signs. A large truck sits in a case carrying an original sign of Butterfinger, the candy bar.
Toward the front of the museum is a place where demonstrations are given, showing how they make candy.
“We give demonstrations to anyone who is interested,” Jill said.
Not only do they show how the candy is made there; it is the actual spot where the candy is made.
“That is what makes Schimpff’s different from you average candy store, because our candy is made right here,” Jill explains, “but we also carry a variety of candy from other manufacturers.”
Being in business for more than 100 years, every customer has their own favorite piece of candy.
“We have many popular candies, but our most famous one is our red hots,” Warren said.
“Another one is, of course, our chocolate turtles and our Modjeska, which has an interesting story behind it,” he added.
The Modjeska was named after a well-known Polish actress of the 1800’s, Helena Modjeska. She made a national premiere in Louisville in 1883 after filming a movie.
“She was the Madonna of the late 1800’s,” Jill mentioned.
The Modjeska is a confectionery marshmallow dipped in caramel.
As you can see, Schimpff’s offers so much history to our area.
“It’s been a good anchor for downtown Jeffersonville,” Jill added, “and so many memories are created here, which means a lot.”
So what really is the best thing about this hidden treasure?
“Comfort and family,” Jill said, “because, just look around.”
As the saying goes, “everyone has a story,” and this one is sure to carry on for generations to come.