519 Perry Highway, Zelienople
724-452-9310 or www.baldingerscandy.com
Even though she doesn't eat candy, it would be tough to find someone with more knowledge on the subject than Betty Sabo.
"I'm diabetic," says Sabo, the manager of Baldinger's Food From All Nations, in Zelienople. "But I love kids and that's why I show up every day. They really love this store."
Who wouldn't? Baldinger's is an amusement park for the eyes and, if you have a few bucks -- cash or check, please -- the taste buds. It's an old-style shop, with walls lined with all kinds of candy, including varieties you remember from childhood. It's a store you walk through while exclaiming, "I haven't seen that in years!"
"I've heard that phrase four times today already," Sabo says, on a recent Friday afternoon. "They see certain things and can't believe we have it. But there's not much that we don't have."
The store has been open nearly continuously for 77 years. About two years ago, it moved a few miles up the road when the land it was sitting on was sold. The store was to be shuttered, but after community outcry, local funeral director Pat Boylan bought the store and recreated it. He kept Sabo on to run the business, a job she'd already been doing for 59 years.
The store's name, "Foods From All Nations," dates from when the store's founder specialized in exotic victuals, often procuring them by writing letters to the consul generals worldwide. At one time, the store sold alligator meat, 100-year-old eggs and chocolate-covered insects. "I never ate any of those," Sabo says of the candied bugs.
Today, there are some different food items, such fish balls and dried corn, as well as specialty cookie-cutters in all shapes, but the main attraction is the candy. Sabo says the bulk malted-milk balls are the hands-down best seller. But shoppers love to browse the old-time candy brands such as SkyBars, Sugar Daddy, Clark, Zagnut, Bun bars, Bonomo Turkish Taffy, and lips, mustaches and bottles made from wax.
Mixed in are new-fangled treats such as candy that spin on a stick, or comes in flashy packaging, like the Sour Flush -- a plastic toilet filled with colored sugar that you dip lollipops into. "These are crazy," says Sabo. "But I knew the kids would love them."
And how did she know? "When you've been selling candy for kids for 59 years, you learn what sells."