A holiday tradition that dates back nearly a century is still alive in downtown Martinsville.
Every weekend in December, people travel from all over Indiana to the Martinsville Candy Kitchen. They come to see the owners craft candy by hand – and they also get a bit of a history lesson.
“The Candy Kitchen was started in 1919,” owner John Badger says as he spreads the warm candy cane mixture over a cold, marble table.
The Candy Kitchen is the only business that’s been on Martinsville’s square for nearly 100 years. It’s changed hands and locations several times, but one thing has always remained the same: Workers make 18 different flavors of candy canes by hand.
“It takes an hour to cook it, and then about a half hour to put it together, and then about an hour to pull the canes out,” Badger says. “So it’s a two-and-a-half hour process to make the canes.”
The staff here will make more than 30,000 by the end of this year. And, for Badger, it’s truly a labor of love.
“I work a full-time job, and then I get off that job and I come here and start making candy canes,” he says.
Badger and his wife bought the shop in 2004. They watched as a lot of Martinsville businesses closed their doors, and they didn’t want to see the same thing happen to the Candy Kitchen.
And, by doing so, they helped preserve a beloved Indiana tradition.
“I enjoy making the candy to make people happy.”
“Every year it was always a tradition,” says Martinsville native Luke Fletcher, who brought his kids to watch the candy cane making on a recent Saturday. “This is one of the coolest places in town. They’ve had this here for longer than I can even remember. We’re excited now to bring the kids in and show them the same things we remember when we were kids.”
Badger makes candy canes throughout the week, but the busiest day is Saturday. He spends nearly eight hours pulling the canes as children press their faces against the glass to watch. It gives families a chance to see a process that’s rarely done by hand anymore. Many weekends he’s here as early as 6 a.m. cranking out the first batch. And, it’s always a family affair.
“We’re going to make a batch after closing hours with all the grand kids making candy canes,” he says.
He’s hopeful those grandkids will carry the tradition on after he retires. But, he’s not planning on stopping anytime soon.
“I enjoy making the candy to make people happy,” Badger says.
The Candy Kitchen will celebrate a big anniversary in 2019, when it turns 100 years old. The owners plan to celebrate the only way they know how: by making a 15-foot candy cane.