My mother was from Maine, and she came from a poor family. Not destitute, but not well-to-do, and she left home at 15. She got a job working for her uncle at a candy store in West Roxbury, and that’s how she learned the business. The story was that she would send money home every week, and that money was used for her family to get indoor plumbing for the first time.
I would hear stories about this business during the Depression . . . In those days, the big factories would have 100, 200, 300 women set up in a kitchen, hand-dipping chocolate. They all wore white aprons, and they would intentionally spill as much chocolate on their aprons as they could. They would take the aprons home with them at night, and after it hardened, they would peel it off to have a little bit of chocolate for dessert. Then they’d wash their aprons and go back to work the next day. I always loved that story.
I started working at the Candy Manor when I was seven years old. By the time I was a teenager, my mom had candy stores in Provincetown, Orleans, Chatham, Harwichport, Dennisport, Yarmouthport, stores in Florida, she had a store in Kennebunkport, Maine.
We used to come here in a 1957, bright yellow, pushbutton-drive Desoto station wagon. We were living in upstate New York at the time, and we’d load up that car and arrive in Chatham in July, set up hard tables, put sheets on top of them, make some candy, and open the door to the shop. It was totally fly-by-night. During July, we would either sleep in the back of the station wagon, or we’d sleep in the back of the Candy Manor.
I had so many friends in Chatham and I spent all my summers here, no matter where I was in school or college. So when it came time to figure out what to do with my life, Chatham just became more like my home than anywhere else we had ever been.
It’s incredible how it has developed from this tiny operation into a mainstay of downtown Chatham. There are so many people that come in and say, “When we get to Chatham, our first stop is always the Candy Manor. And our first lunch is at The Squire…” They have their rituals.
The way we make candy now, by hand-dipping chocolate, we’ve never done it any other way. We’ve never been automated. At the height of summer, we make about 1,000 pounds of chocolate a week . . . The truth is that while I’m one of the owners, now I don’t work at the Candy Manor. If I’m in the storefront, there’s no way I can get anything done because I know everybody in Chatham (laughs). Susan Carroll and Kim Marsh are the face of Candy Manor and the essence of what it stands for.
I love to eat, and I love sweets. I really love good pastries and chocolate—I love the things we make in the Candy Manor to the point where I can overindulge. Because, you know, I have the key (laughs).
The Chatham Orpheum Theater was built in 1915 as a movie house—silent films, of course—and it showed films up until the 1980s. It also served for many years as a town hall when we didn’t have a town hall. Town meetings, high school graduations, plays were all held in that building.
The film industry came up with the concept of the multiplex, and the downtown theatres were abandoned. Main Street theatres were shut down all over the country with deed restrictions saying films could not be shown there. The person who purchased the building in the ’80s tried for two seasons to make it a live theatre, and brought in big acts and wonderful entertainment. And he lost a lot of money in those two years.
A series of miraculous events took place in 2011 that was completely serendipitous. CVS moved to their new location, which is beautiful and wonderful. The Harwich multiplex closed. Then I made a phone call to an attorney and asked what was happening with the deed restriction, and he found out that it had expired. These things happened all at once. It was a sign that this was meant to be, so that was the beginning.
We started a 501(c)(3) and started fundraising in November 2011, and we’ve raised more than $2.4 million. We’re looking to open in June . . . It’s going to be a two-screening room theatre. The larger room will be for quality mainstream films, although in the summer we’re going to do rainy-day matinees with Hollywood blockbuster kids films. The smaller screening room will be more of an arts cinema with independent films, documentaries, foreign films, and there’s a café planned for the very front of the building.
I live at 102 Main Street. The Candy Manor is 484 Main Street. The Orpheum is at 637 Main Street. I used to live at 720 Main Street. My dance studio is at 878 Main Street. So I’m a Main Street girl.
The Candy Manor is a tradition, right along with all of the businesses that have been here since the ’50s or ’60s, like Chatham Jewelers. First Night has become a tradition . . . We have a very prominent and lively community of fishermen and fisherpeople, and the fish pier is a tradition. People go on a regular basis to watch the boats unload and, of course, now to watch the seals and look for sharks. Sharks are becoming a tradition (laughs). The village, the community, the traditions are what make Chatham.