Whether you spent your allowance on Bit-O-Honey, competed with your siblings to see who could make a Tootsie Pop last longest, or are currently stockpiling your favorite flavor of Necco wafers, one thing is clear: When it comes to candy, we’re all like a kid in a candy store. Those “no sugar” resolutions go right out the (candy store) window when we’re faced with enticing jars of colorful confections. So let’s make a toast, with one of those wax coke bottles, to New England’s best candy stores. Herewith, the sweetest stops for anyone with a sweet tooth — or a full set of sweet teeth.
Hilliards Chocolates, North Easton
“You’ve got to try to turtles at Hilliards. They are truly the best,” said our friend Carolyn — who happens to be a nutritionist and the cleanest eater we know. So when someone like that recommends sugar, you know it’s gotta be fabulous. Family owned and operated by four generations of the Hilliard family, Hilliards has shops in Mansfield and Norwell, but the granddaddy, or Sugar Daddy, of them all is in North Easton, where they operate a new chocolate kitchen. This big, homey shop is full of every candy imaginable, from retro faves to their own line of chocolates. Even Oprah Winfrey is a fan; Hilliards peppermint bark was named one of O Magazine’s favorite things in 2018.
We should’ve gone for their extra bold dark chocolate (72 to 80 percent cocoa), given its purported health benefits, but we couldn’t resist the Swedish fish, dipped in regular (53 percent) dark chocolate — a perfect blend of kiddie-meets-adult cravings in one delightful bite. Speaking of adult-y: They also make craft-beer caramels and brittle, which seems to be a trend these days. And they always offer little bags of “Oops” — imperfect candies, for half off. Whether you’re a candy snob or a kid at heart who goes ga-ga for gummies, this is the place. 316 Main St., N. Easton; 508-238-6231; www.hilliardscandy.com.
Cabot’s Candy, Provincetown
You’d think the svelte souls who stroll along P’town’s Commercial Street in barely there outfits would never set foot into a candy store. You would be wrong. In fact, there are three fudge shops on Commercial Street alone. Someone is buying this stuff.
Cabot’s Candy, in business since 1927 and at this spot since 1955, makes saltwater taffy, fudge, and peanut brittles (including a beer brittle) in a factory underneath the shop. Although Cabot’s P’town outpost is pretty empty in winter (they also have a store in Harvard Square), it’s a different scene when tourist season hits. “Everybody but everybody comes in here, looking for their favorite type of taffy or beloved kiddie candy,” employee Aulsie Myers told us. When summer approaches, they stock up on retro brands so the candies stay fresh, she says.
One section of the shop is devoted to their handmade saltwater taffy (made with Cape Cod sea salt) in a variety of cool flavors (39, they say), like root beer, cranberry walnut, and pina colada. The middle of the store has self-serve bins of classic candies; you can fill up a bag for $5.95 per half pound. They don’t make this stuff, but they do make their own fudge, and offer some locally made treats like Cake & Islands Sea Glass Candy and McCrea’s Caramels. Not to mention, a giant chocolate kiss and a 5-pound gummy bear. If these appeal to you, we’d say do it now, well ahead of swimsuit season. 276 Commercial St., Provincetown; 508-487-3550; www.cabotscandy.com.
Phillips Chocolates, Dorchester
As soon as we walked into Phillips Chocolates, we saw it: a regulation-sized chocolate football, complete with white-chocolate lacing. Wow. “Would you let Tom Brady have that for free if he walked in?” we asked. “No,” said the woman behind the counter. “Mark Wahlberg comes in here all the time, and we don’t give him anything for free.” But they are clearly doing something right at Phillips Chocolates — they’ve been in business since 1925, making chocolates and roasting nuts.
This is more of a serious chocolate shop than a candy store, but we include them because they make most of the products they sell, and they offer things our big kids can’t resist: modern classics like chocolate-covered gummy bears, plus chocolate-dipped S’mores and Oreos and pretzels and you-name-it, wrapped in cellophane and just begging to go to a good home. Their chocolate tastes divine. And don’t even get us started on the big chocolate Easter eggs, filled with gooey deliciousness (fudge, royal hash, fruity cream.) This shop also got a shout-out from Oprah, for their chocolate turtles. “Has Oprah ever tasted a chocolate she didn’t like?” said our now-skeptical companion. 818 Morrissey Blvd., Boston; 617-282-2090; www.phillipschocolate.com.
Chatham Candy Manor, Chatham
On a random winter day on Cape Cod, in between chocolate-heavy holidays, this little shop was hopping. It’s a testament to how much people love the place. The employees are wonderful — they’ll actually come out from behind the counter to point out things you might like. (And no, they didn’t know we were reporting for the Globe.) They’re bright and cheery and they seem to love what they do — and why wouldn’t you, unless you moonlighted at a dentist’s office?
They make their own fudge, along with the chocolates in the display case; there’s also a wall of jelly bean dispensers and nostalgia brands like Sugar Babies, Pixy Stix, Laffy Taffy, and Big League Chew, plus candy necklaces and what we used to call candy cigarettes (now: candy sticks). They use Chatham sea salt for their sea salt caramels, and what they don’t make on site, they source from good suppliers like Dorothy Cox’s Chocolate in Wareham and Wilbur’s of Maine. They’re also hoping to create a line of vegan chocolates, due to demand. We left with a box of chocolate sea creatures (aka the “Candy Manor Clambake”), complete with a white chocolate ear of corn, and fought over who got to eat the lobster tail. 484 Main St., Chatham; 508-945-0825; www.candymanor.com.
Chutters, Littleton, N.H.
On a rainy, blustery Sunday during ski season, Loon Mountain Resort was practically deserted. That was because of a) the weather, and b) all the families were at Chutters in Lincoln village, ditching ski mittens for plastic gloves and filling bags with candy. This minimalist shop is lined with 63 feet of glass jars, each loaded with colorful candy. And this isn’t even Chutters’ longest candy counter; that one, up in Littleton, N.H., is 112 feet long and holds the Guinness record for world’s longest candy counter. Wrap your mind (or your Red Vines) around that.
So many choices! More than 500, they say. Small fry scramble from jar to jar, entranced by the contents. Grownups get pretty happy too, when they discover that some of those jars hold Mike & Ike’s, Boston Baked Beans, and Cow Tales, among other childhood favorites. The sheer volume is astonishing — sour gummy cola bottles, or grape Swedish fish, anyone? Your kids may not remember anything else about their trip to Loon (or Littleton), but we guarantee they’ll remember the candy store. 43 Main St., Littleton, N.H.; 603-444-5787; www.chutters.com.
Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections, Freeport, Maine
Ever see those adorable little chocolate L.L. Bean boots? If so, you’ve seen the handiwork of Wilbur’s. Tom Wilbur and Catherine Carty-Wilbur started the business in Freeport in 1983, and grew it to three locations; now their son Andy runs the chocolate-drenched show. The shop smells amazing, and the touches of Maine (beyond those boots) are endearing, like chocolate covered blueberries, gummy “lobstahs,” and traditional Maine Needhams (made with coconut and mashed potatoes). “We’re real perfectionists, and we source as much locally as we can,” says Andy Wilbur. That includes local cream for caramels, vanilla from Portland, sea salt from Marshfield, Maine, and fresh Maine blueberries in their creams and jellies. As for street cred, they’ve won DownEast magazine’s reader’s poll as Maine’s best chocolate and Maine’s best candy shop.
One thing that sets Wilbur’s apart: their hands-on chocolate factory tours, offered on most Saturdays. The 45-minute tours take place every hour and include samples and a sweet treat that you help create. You’ll learn the history of Wilbur’s and get a behind-the-scenes look at their candy-making operation — perhaps making you wish that your parents had handed off a candy business to you. Now that’s a kid in a candy store. 174 Lower Main St., Freeport, Maine; 207-865-4071, tours $4.50 per person; www.wilburs.com.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org