What do you get when you combine a soda fountain, a candy-making operation, and huge collection of candy memorabilia? You get what is quite possibly America’s most wonderful candy store: Schimpff’s Confectionery in Jeffersonville, IN.
When I saw “candy-making demonstration” on my itinerary for a recent trip to southern Indiana, I wasn’t expecting much… If we’re all being honest, we shut down a little when we hear the word “demonstration” these days. We just don’t have the attention span for this stuff anymore. Then I started reading up on Schimpff’s Confectionery and its historic Jeffersonville, IN location…
Opened in its current location in 1891, Schimpff’s is one of, if not THE oldest, continuously operated, family-owned candy business in the country. In these days where the goal of most new start-up businesses is to sell and walk away, to find a business that’s been in the same family since before the Great Depression, two world wars, the moon landing, and 9/11, is a refreshing story. It’s a story that speaks to why we love road tripping… You never know when a little mom and pop candy store is going to be one of the highlights of your trip.
Warren Schimpff, who now operates the family business with his wife Jill, met me outside in a classic 50s-style food service cap, an apron, and an endearing smile. We immediately gravitated to the flood marks on the bricks outside the building… Warren explained the many (and we mean many) floods Schimpff’s Confectionery survived over the years. The most devastating, the Great Ohio River Flood of 1937, a flood that ravaged much of Louisville, southern Indiana, and Cincinnati. (More on how one southern Indiana town creatively fought the fires during the flood) Warren says there’s still mud between the tin ceiling of the soda shop and the second floor where Warren and his siblings were raised.
Once inside, Warren told me the story of the Schimpff family as I wandered around the classic soda fountain, struggling to snap pictures as kids swirled around- after all, they’re kids in a candy shop.
From the soda shop you pass into the candy-making area with a portal to the candy museum. Never in my life have I seen a larger collection of all things candy. There’s really nothing else to say… The collection is just massive. While Warren could have easily entertained me with the history of his priceless collection, he had a crew of curious kids clamoring to see some candy made in the demonstration area.
With noses pressed to the glass, a handful of kids watched as Warren began making Schimpff’s Confectionery’s world-famous “Red Hot Drops.” Wife Jill was busy MC’ing- describing to the kids and adults exactly how Warren was making the candy…
Jill’s presentation was well-rehearsed; we’re sure the result of a few decades of practice. From the occasional joke about her husbands age to the threat to hang naughty kids from their pants by the hook used for their candy cane production, Jill, just like Warren, had a knack for storytelling and creating a warm atmosphere.
Just as impressive as their store and personalities is their actual production method. Little has changed since World War I around Schimpff’s… Back in the 1980s they retrofitted their hand-crank candy press with an electric motor, practically the only update to their methods in a century.
With a tin of their famous Red Hot Drops in hand, I left Schimpff’s Confectionery grinning ear-to-ear.
Are there more sensational places to visit? Sure. Schimpff’s is just a simple candy shop in a small river town, but its history paired with its absolutely beyond-gracious and endearing owners, Warren and Jill Schimpff, makes this one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Louisville/southern Indiana area. If you’re traveling on I-65 and have even just a few minutes to spare, you should stop at Schimpff’s Confectionery to grab some candy and good vibes for the road.
Visiting Schimpff’s Confectionery:
Located just off I-65 in downtown Jeffersonville, IN
347 Spring Street
Jeffersonville, IN 47130