Stepping into the Startup's Candy Store on University Avenue for the first time is like stepping back in time. Yet the delectable old-fashioned goodies rival any modern-day confection.
The old pot-bellied stove suggests warmth and comfort. An antique bench and chair invite a customer to sit down, relax and enjoy a sweet treat. An early Coca-Cola chest almost looks out of place.Display cases are filled with trays of hand-dipped chocolates decorated with a swirled initial for their individual identifications. On top of the display cases is a huge variety of Startup's hard candies of all sizes, shapes and flavors in old-fashioned glass jars with lids. Some are obviously sweets from another era.
Framed portraits of men, also from another era, hang high on the wall. Those who are pictured were hard-working Startups, representing five generations of candymakers, beginning in England more than 150 years ago.
In 1838, in the basement of his small store in Manchester, England, William Startup cast his first confection, which he called American Cough Candy. At that time "candy," as we know it, was virtually unknown.
Eight years later, William's son, William Daw Startup, was born. Very early in life, William Daw helped his father and learned how to make the sweet treats in the basement. After joining the LDS Church, William Daw emigrated from England in 1868, bringing with him candy recipes, scales and other necessary equipment.
After a short try at teaching school, he returned to candy making. His success at a candy stand in Salt Lake City persuaded him to move his family from Summitback to Salt Lake City where William maintained his refreshment booth by the Salt Lake Theater and one near Temple Square when meetings were held there.
By 1875, William Daw and Hagar were the parents of three small children. This required a more substantial income.
Subsequently they moved to Provo where, following his father's example, William Daw set up his own business at 259 W. Center St. Candy was still a relatively new concept.
The high altitude and dry climate in Utah were favorable for candymaking, and it eventually became one of the state's leading industries.
Startup's timing was good, and his products were well-accepted. Startup's candy business boomed after three short years. Then tragedy struck in 1878. One day William Daw struggled to lift a heavy sandstone cooling slab. The excessive strain ruptured a blood vessel in his stomach. After three days of excruciating pain, he died.
Returning home from the funeral Hagar walked into the store and found a batch of candy on the cold stove just as William had left it. Strangely, she seemed to be directed to add the needed ingredients. The candy tasted just right.
She would continue the business. She remembered many of the recipes William stored only in his mind.
Her three sons assumed ownership and management of the business in 1895 with George as president and William and Walter working with him.
At the turn of the century their growing success required building a much larger facility at 534 S. 100 West.
Startup's Ice Cream Parlor at 82 W. Center was a natural since they were the first to sell ice cream in Utah. Startup's candy was also sold here.
When Startup's candies were in greatest demand, again tragedy struck - this time the Depression in 1929. Much of the population was unable to purchase sufficient food, let alone the luxury of candy. Business sank.
Walter bought out his brothers' interests in the factory, but in 1939 he lost the business to the bank. Finally he accumulated sufficient funds to buy back the north half of the building, which was the box-making plant where Startup's Candy Co. is now located.
Walter struggled to keep the business afloat. But it has continued on a small scale despite so much new competition. And the generational ties continue. Walter's young son Harry grew up carefully pouring, pulling and pummeling hard candy, taffy and chocolates of all kinds. This was a rare fourth-generation father-son business relationship.
Harry graduated from Provo High in 1938, then college. Then he worked full time making candy and learning all the tricks of the trade from his father.
Harry says, "Today we make the same products as my dad did."
The same recipes and the same molds are still used. And when it comes to producing candy with such quality and detail, handmade is better than any candy made with modern automation. "We still dip our chocolates by hand." Truly they can't be surpassed.
In the '70s, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers unveiled a plaque on the candy factory commemorating the business as the "oldest candy company in Utah still in operation."
Harry and his devoted wife Karma still maintain their candy store downtown in Provo at 45 N. University Ave. The store is chiefly Karma's "baby." She manages with four or five part-time employees.
The store takes us back into the past. A shelf high on the walls displays wooden buckets, an ancient typewriter, jugs, a teddy bear mold, an old-time wooden telephone that they still use, a hard-candy cutter, a couple of ancient molds and five-gallon cans, all saved from the old candy factory.
Startup's Candy is distributed to stores all over the state, and its trademark Magnolias are shipped all over the country.
At 78, Harry still works hard operating the factory with the help of son Jon, 36. Candymaking is also in Jon's blood.
"Where candy is concerned, it's always good to make it the same way every time. We experiment and do a little research and development from time to time, but the recipes and methods are the same from year to year with the same molds," he said.