The Wonderful World of Candy

Candy Kitchen’s Rich History of Homemade Candies spans Four Generations
Arielle Patterson

A trip to Candy Kitchen has become a quintessential part of the Ocean City vacation experience. As a longstanding staple in this coastal community, Candy Kitchen has a rich history extending over eight decades.

In 1937 following the Great Depression, an ambitious young man, Sam Taustin, decided to open a candy shop on the boardwalk. A true entrepreneur, Sam was the youngest of nine children and completely devoted to his family, allowing them all to play a part in the earliest Candy Kitchen operation. Sam’s sisters would oversee retail locations on 6th, 9th and 28th Streets, to name a few.

At its start, Candy Kitchen found success in Ocean City’s summer season. The business saw a boom in the 1960’s when Sam’s nephew, Richard Leiner, came on board as an operating partner. With the help of Richard, Candy Kitchen grew its local footprint and gained a new regional customer base in 1963 when the first store opened in Rehoboth Beach.  Today, Candy Kitchen maintains 19 retail stores, located from Ocean City to Rehoboth, including the shore points of Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. 

For decades, Candy Kitchen has received both local and regional recognition for its homemade high-quality candies.  That level of praise comes with the family’s ongoing commitment and dedication to the business. Today, Sam’s great nephew Bruce Leiner alongside his wife, Cindy and the fourth generation, their daughter, Jesse; their son, Josh and his wife, Jill; handle Candy Kitchen’s day-to-day operations. 

Under the oversight of the Leiner Family, Candy Kitchen continues to excel in creating treats to satisfy any sweet tooth—salt water taffy, creamy fudge and hand-dipped chocolates are made at their original manufacturing facility on 53rd Street.  “I don’t think the general public is aware we are locally owned and operated,” said Jill Leiner, Chief Financial Officer of Candy Kitchen. She continues, “almost all of our candy is made right here in Ocean City at our factory on 53rd Street.”

The fudge, salt water taffy and chocolates are all manufactured based upon consumer demand, guaranteeing that the freshest product is always available to customers.  “We typically make about 200 pounds per week in the off-season, whereas we’d be making 600 pounds of that same fudge flavor multiple days a week in summer,” explains Bruce Leiner, President of Candy Kitchen.

In this modern world filled with additives and preservatives, where machines have replaced hard-working employees, Candy Kitchen maintains their old-fashioned approach which has yielded them fantastic results with 85 years of success to back them.  Candy Kitchen’s talented team of candymakers and chocolatiers, led by Head Candymaker Josh Leiner, take the time to physically make, cut, shape, drizzle and sprinkle each component of the company’s confections.

“Our key ingredient is hand labor,” Bruce shared. “Even with the available technologies of today, most of our candies are still handmade, and our employees take tremendous pride in their work. Every single cluster, bark and gourmet pretzel is hand dipped and packed.”

In addition to their literal hands-on approach to candy making, Candy Kitchen also uses the freshest, highest quality ingredients, sourced locally as much as possible.  “We purchase the best raw materials available and never use preservatives. All our ingredients, pure cane sugar, nuts, raisins, coconut and inclusions like real Oreo cookies and M&M’s, are the best available. Quality is crucial to us and our customers,” Bruce said.

While your tastebuds will appreciate Candy Kitchen’s delicious, old-fashioned sweets, some aspects of the company have become modernized. Cindy Leiner has continued to revitalize both the product line along with the overall look of Candy Kitchen, including the bright and welcoming colors and designs of  “The Wonderful World of Candy” that greets every customer.

Cindy along with daughter Jesse Overholt, who serve as the company’s buyers and retail merchandisers, introduce the newest, most trendy products each year to the stores. In addition to sweets, customers can also peruse their wide array of toys, novelties, and gifts, making Candy Kitchen a family-friendly destination and a fun place to visit no matter if you’re 3 or 93 years old.

At the end of the day, the heart of Candy Kitchen’s business is family. Starting with Sam Taustin and now with the third and fourth generations of the Leiner Family at the helm of the company, they have continued to provide a memorable and tasty experience for every family that visits Candy Kitchen.  

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