SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Making candy canes is part of the sweetness of the Christmas holidays and a tradition Sweenor’s confectioners plans to continue Sunday when opening its kitchen to the public to show how this family’s iconic handmade treat is created.
Be prepared for a line – regardless of weather – as people come between noon and 5 p.m. Dec. 1 to the small operation to see the twists, turns, tugs and pulls that create unique shapes for each handmade candy cane, bucking the trend of mass-produced ones in exact sizes on store shelves.
“It’s not something a lot of businesses do any more. A lot of people don’t make candy canes. It’s a cool thing,” said Lisa Sweenor Dunham. She and her brother, Brian, operate the Charles Street business handed down from their grandfather to their father, Bill, and now to them.
It’s more than just candy-cane making, though, for the Sweenors. It’s about creating a holiday-season festivity for this eager community that turns out in the hundreds each year for a glimpse of an earlier time of candy-making when manufacturing exact sizes and shapes hadn’t begun yet.
She pointed out that candy cane day is also a time when her family joins together to help. Besides she and Brian Sweenor, their children Drew and Cole, her brother, Jeff and his wife, Sheila, and their father will be on site to work in the kitchen, and greet the new and returning customers.
“The thing that floors me is that so many people thank us. When they are going through the line, they will say, ‘Thank you for doing this every year.’ It always just blows my mind that so many people will thank us for doing it,” said Dunham.
She pointed out that the candy canes sell for about $1 each, about the same price for the last three decades they’ve done the tours. The family has made candy canes for nearly 65 years in their store, she added.
Those coming to see how the boiled sugar and water are transformed into the tasty peppermint delight will also get a glimpse of the more than 20 people needed to create the hardened red-and-white or green-and-white stick. This weekend is also the only time this season that Sweenor’s will make the 3,000 candy canes to sell.
The demonstration is not a money-making event, she explained when asked about sales.
“We literally don’t really make any money on the candy canes” because of labor costs, Dunham said. “We only make them those two days – that’s it. We have to rearrange the whole kitchen just to make them. It takes a lot of people to move the canes through the process.”
“But, it’s a nice thing to have and so many people really appreciate it,” she said, “so that’s really why we do it. It’s just giving back. It adds to the sense of community. They love the holiday traditions. For many people, this is part of their holiday traditions. This kicks off the season for them.”